Friday, March 20, 2009

Dogfight in Boston

If form holds tonight at the Hockey East Championships, Boston University and Northeastern University will square off on the ice tomorrow night with the league championship on the line. As with BU and BC, familiarity--and proximity, the schools are about a mile apart--breed contempt. 

But if you think animosity between BU and Northeastern is a new phenomenon, think again. Northeastern adopted the “Huskies” nickname in 1927, and its first live mascot, “King Husky,” appeared on campus on March 4 of that year. The regal name was fitting, since the King was descended from sled dog royalty; his father was the lead dog on Leonhard Seppala’s famous team that rushed diphtheria serum across 645 miles of rugged Alaskan land to save the stricken village of Nome, an event that is commemorated by the annual Iditarod Great Sled Race.

Upon their arrival in Boston, more than two thousand students and the university band greeted Seppala and the Siberian husky at the train station. The dog and the throng then paraded through the streets of Boston to the Northeastern campus, where the new mascot was presented with a “roads scholarship” for his experience on the Alaskan highways.

Unfortunately, there was some ugliness on the parade route as it passed through the Boston University campus and enemy turf. BU students weren't very deferential to the new monarch and as many as 700 of them jamming the steps and windows of the business school building pelted the procession with eggs, vegetables, and snowballs. According to an account in the New York Times, "Except for the self restraint of the marchers a serious clash would have resulted. Seppala had to dodge to evade the missiles that showered the float on which he rode with his dog, an eskimo, and several co-eds. Frozen snow was showered on the band and succeeding sections of the parade were pelted with missiles. Women and girl spectators received much that was badly thrown, hats and coats being spoiled by broken eggs. Each volley was countered by the marching students with a cheer for Boston University and they kept marching. When the Northeastern boys took the punishment jokingly and refused to retaliate, several Boston University students tried to stop the missile throwing by calling for cheers for Northeastern." 

The ambush was planned because there were reports that Northeastern students were to carry signs deriding BU. The signs had been made, but they were destroyed on orders from the Northeastern authorities. Hopefully, there won't be any reports of students wielding rotten produce at the Garden this weekend. 

More stories such as these (and more on BU and Northeastern athletics) can be found in my new book, The Die-Hard Sports Fan's Guide to Boston, due out in June and currently available for pre-order on

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