One of the great frustrations in being an alumni of Providence College is the lack of a true rival. Friar basketball fans might dislike UCONN, Syracuse and Georgetown, but all of those schools have more impressive rivals to feud with and - let's be fair here - PC can't beat any of them on a consistent basis. Except maybe UCONN, and that was only last year. Similarly, URI fans dislike PC with the fire of a thousand suns, but not even I would go out of my way to lavish a similar feeling on the Rams. So finding a basketball rival is a bit of a problem.
A similar situation exists in hockey. I thought I would go down the list of potential rivals. Here are the teams I'm eliminating right off the bat: UML (I actually like them), UMASS (not enough water under the bridge), Merrimack (last year notwithstanding), NU (too much in common), UVM (too new), and Maine (teetering towards complete irrelevance). This leaves the following four schools:
Brown: Bruno makes the cut because the over all series is pretty much dead even (I think the Bears have a one or two game lead) and the results of Mayor's Cup usually have nothing to do with the record of either team. There are several problems here. The first of which is that PC is not Brown's arch rival. That would be Harvard and that particular rivalry dates back to the 19th century. The second problem is that if you compare the strengths of the two programs, PC is out in front by a very wide margin. PC has more ECAC titles that Bruno, and they haven't been in the ECAC since 1984. Third, as horrible as the attendance is for PC home games (probably due to the LOUD SPEAKERS!) the attendance at Meehan is actually worse. That thought always give me pause. How can you lavish hate on a team with a smaller fan base than yourself? The only fans who even deserve a smidgen of dislike are the people in the band. Fourth, and most importantly, I like Brown. And I really shouldn't be able to say that about a rival.
New Hampshire: One of the main motivators for finding a team you hate is jealousy and it's easy to covet certain parts of the Wildcat's program. UNH has a much larger fan base, a lovely rink, a program that's always ranked in the top 10 and gets home ice every year, and a period of competence that dates back to the 70's. The problem with UNH is that "competence" doesn't quite equal dominance. The Wildcats have the smallest series lead of any of the teams PC plays in the Big Four. They also have LESS tournament titles than PC (four is greater than three) and have never won the national title either - even with many more Frozen Four appearances. The other problem is that the days of Kitty fans constantly complainng about how "dirty" the Skating Goons of PC are seem to be in the past. In fact, UNH's constant inability to win the national championship seems to have depressed the entire fan base. How can a team be a rival when their fan base is almost as unhappy as your own? And who in their right mind would want to get rid of Dick Umile?
Boston College: It's much easier to envy BC: better rink, larger fan base (although not as big as UNH), countless conference titles, a massive overall advantage over PC and three national titles. Yet, there's still plenty to dislike. The school considers itself a Football School, which means that as much as some of the fans really like hockey, most of them are more interested in football or even basketball. Also, the band plays "For Boston" about 90 times per game which puts them in the same category as Michigan (but still ahead of MTU and their catchy yet toxic Penalty Kill Ditty). The Eagles seem to enjoy nothing more than ruining my evening, which is an excellent reason to dislike them. The piece de resistance was last year when PC won the season series 2-0-1 against BC only to get drubbed in the playoffs. I hate it when that happens. BC also seems to have at least one completely unlikeable yet insanely talented (and usually diminutive) player on their roster each and every year.
It would seem that BC would be perfect as PC's rival. But there are a few problems. First of all, PC will never be considered a rival with BU around. And certainly not with the Eagles in the ACC. Superfans might take the Friars more seriously if they had a football team. Secondly, we have Jerry York. I have yet to find anyone in college hockey who doesn't love this guy: he's a great coach, a brilliant recruiter and he practically generates class. If the AD at the Heights ever loses his mind and fired Jerry, I will personally drive him to Schneider Arena.
Boston University: The Terriers are the most successful team in the east - nevermind Hockey East - so there's plenty to be jealous of an dislike. The huge fan base, the fantastic rink, the plethora of hardware and that meaningless tournament they keep winning. No team - not even BC - has done more to ruin the Friar's season as BU. If BU isn't actually beating them in the playoffs, they're dragging out the proceedings for two overtimes. It does help that BU has played PC in the playoffs more than any other team. So BU is an excellent choice, even if you disregard the hairy half naked men and Jackie Parker's voodoo mind hold on whatever official Hockey East cares to put on the ice.
But as always, we do have problems. BU has more enemies than any other team in college hockey: ALL of Hockey East, plus Harvard, Cornell, and - for some reason - Minnesota. Clearly, PC is not alone in disliking BU. But the BC rivalry is the biggest in the east - if not all of college hockey. The second problem is the near obsession that the team has with winning the Beanpot. Clearly, it's tough to take a rivalry seriously when your "rival" is looking forward to the first and second Monday in February.
I think that for PC fans, BU and BC are probably the two closest thing we have to "rivals", even if neither team would care to see PC in that light.
-I'll keep it short... HI MARK!