The legend of Wayne ‘Beanpot’ Turner. His goal 43 years ago ‘changed the course of Northeastern hockey’

Wayne Turner and dave Archambault holding Beanpot trophy
Captains Wayne Turner (left) and Dave Archambault accept the Beanpot trophy in 1980. Photo by Northeastern University Archives

Northeastern will be seeking its fourth championship in a span of five Beanpot tournaments Monday night at TD Garden. The Huskies’ recent domination of men’s hockey in Boston can be traced back to a single dramatic goal scored 43 years ago by senior captain Wayne Turner.

Wayne “Beanpot” Turner, as he is known today.

“It changed the course of Northeastern hockey and Northeastern athletics,” athletic director Jim Madigan says. “For us, that is the pivotal moment.”

It was February 1980 and Northeastern was the ultimate underdog entering the 28th Beanpot at Boston Garden. Not only had the Huskies never won the tournament, but they were in the midst of a woeful 7-20 season under longtime coach Fernie Flaman, who hadn’t enjoyed a winning year since 1974-75.

“They lost four players to early signings to the NHL, including Chris Nilan and Jimmy Walsh,” Madigan says. “So that ’79-80 team struggled.”

Turner was a forward from rural Kittimat, a small town in northern British Columbia. He had grown up playing for winning teams in Canada, including a Junior A national champion that was coached by Doug Messier—father of NHL legend Mark Messier—who facilitated his recruitment by Northeastern.

Turner knew nothing of the Beanpot until he arrived.

“Northeastern didn’t have very strong teams in those days,” says Turner, who was the lone Black hockey player in the Huskies’ conference, the ECAC. “We didn’t have the top talent that they have today.”

Carrying a 3-11 record into the 1980 Beanpot semifinals, the Huskies upset Boston University, 6-5, thanks to a pair of goals from Turner, who forced overtime with three minutes left in regulation. 

Northeastern played for the championship a week later with the underdog support of everyone but the fans of Boston College, which was favored to win its 10th title.

“I do recall that a lot of people were behind us,” Turner says. “You’re dealt the cards you’re dealt sometimes. And then it’s about how you react to the situation you’re in. Not everything is going to be favorable. You have to take what you’re given and make the best of it.”

The pressure to take advantage of their rare opportunity might have been too much for some teams. But the Huskies were up to the challenge.

“In those games, the closer you get to the end and everybody’s still in it, that can pick you up a lot if you have a real bona fide chance,” Turner says. “We were playing a pretty even match and that makes a difference. If we’re just hanging on and they have 60 shots and we have 20, that’s a different story. But that wasn’t the case. It could have gone either way at any time.”

The score was tied, 4-4, when the title game went into overtime.

“It was a little bit of a new feeling for Northeastern,” Turner says. “And the fans wanted to see the underdog finally win.”

Win they did, just 2 minutes 47 seconds into the extra period. While sprawling on the ice, teammate Dale Ferdinandi forwarded a pass ahead to Turner. And having played in so many big games in Canada, he knew what to do as he moved in alone toward the BC goalie. 

It was a wristed forehand and as it thumped high into the net Turner skated by as if he’d been there before.

“I raised my hands, that kind of thing,” Turner says. “We didn’t do all the stuff they do today—although I thoroughly enjoy the way they celebrate today.”

Everyone else took care of that for him. Though Turner has trouble remembering the play itself—it happened so fast that he has had to recreate the goal by watching replays—he recalls the ice filling with exuberant teammates, coaches, students and fans. In the days to come, he was surprised to be recognized by strangers on campus.

Northeastern’s legendary sports information director Jack Grinold came up with his enduring nickname: “Beanpot” Turner.

“I thought of it as a goal in a big tournament,” Turner says. “I never expected to talk about it for years and all these other things that have happened.”

That breakthrough—the first Beanpot title in 28 tries—was like a light switch flicking on for Northeastern and its athletic department. Suddenly its leaders could see a pathway forward.

“After 27 years of utter misery, of not being able to compete against the three other Boston schools and losing a lot of games by large scores, that win propelled us and our alumni community,” Madigan says. “All of a sudden they were saying, ‘Hey, we can do this.’ And it was the start of investing in athletics at Northeastern.”

Budgets were increased, says Madigan. Recruiting became more ambitious. Northeastern acquired the rights to the Boston Arena, renamed it Matthews Arena, and upgraded it. 

Players on a recruiting trip who happened to attend the 1980 Beanpot victory—including future Northeastern Hall of Famers Ken Manchurek and Randy Bucyk—would sign up to be Huskies. By 1982 they would be advancing to the Frozen Four of the NCAA Tournament (with Madigan playing as a freshman). And they would win three Beanpots from 1984 through ‘88.

The men’s basketball team enjoyed similar success with a half-dozen NCAA Tournament appearances in the 1980s, including four straight around the duo of coach Jim Calhoun and star guard Reggie Lewis. 

“It all goes back to that goal,” Madigan says. “And Wayne is so humble. He gets so much attention but he tries to deflect it. He doesn’t want the attention because he knows it’s a team sport, that someone had to pass the puck and help him get there.”

Turner, who finished his career with 51 goals and 108 points, is a member of the Huskies Hall of Fame as well as the Beanpot Hall of Fame. He graduated with Northeastern degrees in education (1981) and public administration (1986). Today he serves as director of HR operations at MIT, where he has worked for 36 years.

He’ll be attending the Beanpot on Monday. 

“I think it’s very even,” says Turner, a Huskies season ticket holder who remains grateful for the support he received at Northeastern from Flaman and his longtime assistant coach Don McKenney. “It’s going to be tight any way you cut it.”

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.