Boston College-Boston University rivalry doesn't cool off after players move to the NHL

Clayton Keller still engages in the rivalry, even while with the Arizona Coyotes. AP Photos

Between the countless memorable matchups during the regular season, the Hockey East tournament and the fabled Beanpot Tournament, Boston University-Boston College has become one of the truly great rivalries in hockey. Through generations of battles for national and local supremacy, the neighboring programs have been the focal point of Boston's historic hockey heritage while developing some of the NHL's top players.

For the players who have gone on to play professionally, that rivalry doesn't end when they start lacing up their skates in the NHL.

"You obviously know guys who played, past and present. I work out with a bunch of guys from BC back home in the summertime. I don't know if I was really welcome there," Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle, a Massachusetts native who played two years at Boston University, said jokingly. "You always remember that rivalry. It's cool."

The historic rivalry between two schools nestled in one of hockey's most passionate hotbeds is unavoidable in the NHL. No fewer than 30 former BU and BC players could be found on NHL rosters when the 2017-18 season began. The New Jersey Devils alone feature five former Boston College players on their roster this season, including franchise goaltender Cory Schneider.

Despite growing up in nearby Connecticut, former Boston University star Kevin Shattenkirk found himself surrounded by former adversaries when he signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers in the summer. The Rangers have three former Boston College players, not to mention forward Jimmy Vesey, who proved to be a nuisance for both schools during his four-year career at Harvard University, which he closed out in 2016 by winning the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as college hockey's top Division I player.

It's a feeling another former BU defenseman knew all too well last season.

"I was on a team with a Harvard guy and a BC guy last year. It was a little bit of a rough go for the Beanpot," said Arizona Coyotes defenseman Adam Clendening, a former BU player who last season skated with the Rangers. "That rivalry is always good no matter where you are.

"It gets a little bit heated."

After signing with Arizona last summer, Clendening was thrilled to find his locker room stall was beside that of Clayton Keller, the Coyotes rookie who starred last season at Boston University. Discovering they would be sitting beside each other, Clendening and Keller wasted little time discussing the BU-BC rivalry.

"It's cool to have other guys in the league that played at the same school as you and played against your rival," said Keller. "It's a special feeling."

Keller and the Terriers swept the Eagles during the regular season last season before defeating them in the Beanpot Tournament, the revered local hockey spectacle between BU, BC, Harvard and Northeastern University that dates back to 1952. Harvard defeated BU in the Beanpot final last season, marking the first time since 1993 that a team other than BC or BU won the tournament.

Even though neither BC nor BU claimed the Beanpot, players around the NHL were paying close attention to the tournament.

"During Beanpot, it's pretty good," said Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel, who won the Hobey Baker in 2015 following his lone season at Boston University.

When former Boston College star Brian Gionta was Sabres captain, it got particularly interesting. "So we'll go at it and make a little bet," Eichel said. "BC and BU guys definitely give each other s---."

With so many former BC and BU players becoming NHL teammates, the stakes in those friendly Beanpot wagers can get pretty innovative. Earlier in his career, Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau, a Hobey Baker winner with Boston College in 2014, found a way to get creative with a teammate. Gaudreau made an arrangement with then-teammate and former BU player Alex Chiasson that the member of the losing squad would have to wear the winning team's jersey in the Flames' locker room. Boston College won that year, but Gaudreau was unable to find one of his BC jerseys at his Calgary home and ultimately let his teammate off the hook.

The Eagles got the last laugh against the Terriers in the conference tournament last season, beating BU in the semifinals before losing to the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the final. But Keller admitted that, despite being an NHL rookie, he wasn't too polite to point out his success against BC when he encountered former Eagles in the NHL.

"Maybe a little bit in the summer when I saw some of the guys," Keller said. "I think BU has the upper hand on them this year. But we'll see. It's a great rivalry."

Bragging rights won't truly be on the line until the two schools meet this season in the first weekend of December. The back-to-back games won't just mark the latest chapter in one of hockey's great clashes. They will also be a showcase for some of the NHL's best prospects. BU will feature standout Wild draft pick Jordan Greenway beside top 2018 draft prospect Brady Tkachuk as well as goaltender and Dallas Stars first-round pick Jake Oettinger. BC will counter with Casey Fitzgerald, a third-round pick of the Sabres who is considered one of their top up-and-coming defensemen.

Between those anticipated regular-season matchups, the Beanpot and the Hockey East tournament, there will no doubt be plenty of chirping going on both inside and between NHL locker rooms.

"I'm sure there is some betting going on," said Coyle. "That's what the rivalry is all about. It never ends."