New book vividly details 74 years of NCAA Frozen Four history
From the first NCAA hockey tournament, held in Colorado a few years after World War II, to the modern nationally-televised incarnation of the Frozen Four, Brian Shaughnessy's new book covers it all.
Having grown up in suburban Boston in the 1980s and ‘90s, Brian Shaughnessy is a product of one of the nation’s true college hockey hotbeds, and his passion for the sport comes naturally.
“Back then, BU, BC and Harvard were in national contention almost every year,” Shaughnessy said. “It was just a glorious time to be a college hockey fan. I always favored it over the NHL.”
To him, it just seemed the players tried a little harder, the games were more dramatic and the final score meant a little bit more to the fans. When the Internet boomed in the late 1990s and websites dedicated to covering the game came along, Shaughnessy and East Coast fans were able to learn more about leagues like the WCHA and the original CCHA.
“We had these classic and really fascinating NCAA tournament games by teams that probably didn’t know a ton about each other,” he said. “It was just a great era.”
For the past 15 years, Shaughnessy has lived and worked about as far from the mainstream of American college hockey as one can get without a visa. He is based in Hawaii, working as a federal law enforcement agent for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, dealing with crimes like financial fraud and narcotics being sent through the mail.
Still, that Massachusetts-born passion for college hockey never left him, even five time zones away from the home of the Beanpot, and in recent years Shaughnessy has put his love for the game into print. In 2020 he worked with the Hobey Baker Foundation to author a book on the first 40 winners of college hockey’s highest individual honor. For his second act, Shaughnessy has recently produced a comprehensive history of the NCAA Frozen Four, recapping every tournament from the first one, when Michigan beat Dartmouth to claim the inaugural NCAA men's hockey title in 1948, to this past spring in Boston when Denver rallied in the third period to beat Minnesota State Mankato for the national crown.
In developing “Frozen in Time: A History of the U.S. Men’s College Ice Hockey Championship,” Shaughnessy put together a manuscript of more than 130,000 words and turned in around 250 photos to a Twin Cities-based designer. The finished product is more than 200 pages recapping each of the first 74 national tournaments (the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the pandemic).
Shaughnessy had a few goals going in. He wanted each chapter to be roughly the same length, so each tournament got equal coverage. He wanted his efforts to benefit the Matt Brown Foundation , a Massachusetts-based non-profit named after a high school player who was paralyzed in a 2010 game. And he wanted to hear directly from those who participated, either on the ice or from the bench.
“My goal was to make contact with one player or coach who had participated in every Frozen Four,” he said. “Obviously from the early ones, nearly everyone is gone.”
Still, Shaughnessy was able to track down players like Warren Lewis, a forward on Boston College’s first NCAA title team in 1949. Through some incredibly thorough research, he also got many contributions from reporters who had covered previous Frozen Fours and from the schools that had participated in them.
“I started writing it a little over two years ago, and I caught a lot of breaks,” Shaughnessy admitted. “Nearly every school that’s won a Division I title, and several that haven’t, donated photos for the book.”
He spent more than a year writing, and another five months editing, confessing that even after going over and over his copy, you still never seem to get things exactly the way you want them. Still, the finished product – currently available via Amazon.com for $24.95 – is Shaughnessy’s way of paying tribute to the sport.
“This has been a great game for a long time, and it arguably was an even better game 20 to 30 years ago, but it still is a great sport,” Shaughnessy said.