Remembering the Real “Garden”

A view from outside the old Garden.

After reading a recent story by Carl Desberg discussing the history of Fenway’s Green Monster, I decided to reminisce a little about the old Boston Garden.

When TD Bank (then TD Banknorth) bought the naming rights in 2005 they dubbed the former Fleetcenter/Shawmut Center the TD Banknorth Garden in honor of the fallen Boston Garden.

Despite the homage, it never felt quite right to refer to TD Garden as “The Garden.” That name was reserved for the original Garden, one of the most unique arenas in sports.

The Boston Garden held so much history for hockey fans and Boston sports fans alike. The arena was completed in 1928 and was originally intended to be a Boston version of New York’s Madison Square Garden. In fact, the original name was “Boston Madison Square Garden” before being shortened to “Boston Garden.”

The Garden was originally built to host boxing matches but quickly evolved into an all encompassing sports arena, but the arena was not quite built to general NHL rink standards. Standard NHL rinks are 200 feet long by 85 feet wide but the rink at the Boston Garden was 191 feet long by 83 feet wide.

Playing in the slightly smaller rink gave the Bruins a distinct advantage over their opposition. “It was a tough building to play in,” Paul Ysebaert, former winger of the Detroit Red Wings, once said. “They had a small ice surface, and they got the right players to perform in that type of rink. Every game was tough, with lots of bumping and grinding. You had to change your game plan to mold into that kind of rink.”

The way the arena was structured, the upper balcony literally hung right over the ice, giving fans a unique experience and giving them the impression that they were literally part of the game.

Because of the close proximity of the fans to the playing surface, the building was literally deafening when the fans began cheering on their boys in black and gold.

“The building itself when coming in to play gave maybe a goal and a half, two goal advantage or lead right off the bat, which was nice. The fans were right on top of the players with the balconies. It was close and just a fun place to play.” ~ former Bruin Don Marcotte.

“It was fun because the fans were right above you in the overhang. You could hear the fans cheering for you or yelling at you one way or the other and they enjoyed it too because they could hear what we were saying on the ice. It was just so much fun because the building was a little bit smaller, so you really enjoyed it.” ~ Bruins Hall of Famer Johnny Bucyk.

The TD Garden certainly gave the Bruins and their fans a better built, more modern arena but much of the charm and aura of the original Garden was lost with its destruction. The rink now measures to NHL standards and the fans are a bit further away from the action. The atmosphere of the Boston Garden will perhaps never be replaced.

The Bruins last took the ice at the Boston Garden on September 28, 1995 in a pre-season game against their ultimate

Bruins banners flying high at the legendary arena.

rivals the Montreal Canadiens, a fitting end to the historic building.

The Boston Garden saw five Stanley Cup banners soar to the rafters, saw Bobby Orr take flight and saw Phil Esposito assault NHL record books. Other Bruins legends like Cheevers, Neely, O’Reilly, Bourque, Clapper and Shore skated on the fabled Garden ice. The Garden was where legends played.

The aura of the old Garden is physically gone, but will forever live on in spirit for those who played on it’s fabled ice and for those who watched the old school Bruins bruising battles. Sorry TD Garden, but there is only one place that will forever be known as “The Garden.”

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