The Boston Garden Glory Lives On!

TD Banknorth Garden
Boston, MA

The Boston Garden was a famous arena built in 1928 in Boston, Massachusetts. Designed by boxing promoter Tex Rickard, who also built the third incarnation of New York's Madison Square Garden, the arena was originally called the "Boston Madison Square Garden", but eventually got clipped to the Boston Garden. Located on top of North Station, a train station, which is a hub for MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak trains, the Garden hosted home games for the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics, as well as rock concerts, amateur sports, boxing and wrestling cards, circuses and ice shows. It was also used as an exposition hall for political rallies such as the famous speech by John F. Kennedy in November, 1960. The Boston Garden was demolished in 1998, a few years after the completion of its new successor arena, the FleetCenter, now called TD Banknorth Garden.


Tex Rickard built the arena specifically with boxing in mind, believing that every seat should be close enough to see the "sweat on the boxers' brows." Because of this design theme, when the larger hockey and basketball playing areas were used, fans were much closer to the players than in most arenas, leading to a distinct hometown advantage. The closeness also created spectacular acoustic effects; one legendary story had a lone fan, sitting in the cheapest seats in the arena, harranguing Bruins player Ed Westfall from across the length of the ice, and Westfall turning and giving him "the finger". When teams made playoff appearances, and a sold out crowd was chanting or screaming, the impact was enormous; even the notoriously loud Chicago Stadium could not match the noise of the smaller Garden. The change from the Garden to the TD Banknorth Garden remarkably coincided with the demise in popularity and success of both the Bruins and the Celtics with local fans.

Sections of the famous parquet floor and bricks of the garden were sold as souvenirs following its demolition.
Sections of the famous parquet floor and bricks of the garden were sold as souvenirs following its demolition.

The Garden was also famous for its parquet floor that the Boston Celtics played on; however, the parquet floor was not originally part of the Garden. The parquet floor was built and installed in the Boston Arena, but was moved to the Garden in 1952. It is said that the Celtics knew which way the basketball would bounce off any particular section of the floor, and that this was one contributing factor to the Celtics' many National Basketball Association championships. The floor became as much a part of Boston sports lore as the Green Monster of Fenway Park. The parquet floor was used until December 22, 1999, at the FleetCenter. Portions of the original floor are integrated with new parquet. The floor was cut into small pieces and sold as souvenirs of the original Boston Garden. Seats from the Boston Garden were also sold. The Naden overhead scoreboard (which was electro-mechanical, not electronic, as more recent arenas used) of the Boston Garden can be seen hanging in the Boston Garden themed foodcourt of the Arsenal Mall in Watertown MA.

Shot of the New York Rangers practicing in Boston Gardens in 1997.  Taken by Troy Parla.
Shot of the New York Rangers practicing in Boston Gardens in 1997. Taken by Troy Parla.

The Garden was also infamous for several design flaws as well, such as seating that was obstructed by enormous cement pillars. Some seats were situated directly behind them. The hockey rink was undersized, which threw visiting players off their games. Its visitor's dressing room was notoriously small, hot, and underserved by plumbing; the Los Angeles Lakers developed a special hatred for it. Rats made the bowels of the Garden their home and, for a time, monkeys escaped from the circus lived in the rafters. The Garden had no air conditioning (which showed in Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals, otherwise known as the "Heat Game"), and the electrical systems were notoriously unreliable. The Boston Bruins' last two Stanley Cup finals appearances were both disrupted by power outages. On May 24, 1988 a power transformer blew up during Game 4 of the finals series between the Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers: the contest officially ended in a 3-3 tie. Two years later, on May 15, 1990, the lights went out during an overtime finals game between the same two teams. Luckily, the lights got turned back on this time, and Game 1 of the series ended with a 3-2 triple overtime win for the visiting Oilers.

Other Notable Events

Rock band Led Zeppelin was banned from performing at the Boston Garden in 1975 after concert fans were allowed in the lobby due to sub-freezing temperatures while waiting for tickets to go on sale for a Zeppelin show. Turning on the generosity of their hosts, some of the fans rioted, leading then-mayor of Boston Kevin H. White to cancel the upcoming show and ban the group for five years. KISS was banned from performing at the Boston Garden as well because the band refused to comply with the venue's no pyrotechnic policy.

James Brown played an infamous show at the Garden the night that Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead. Only a few thousand people attended the show, because the concert was broadcast on every TV station in town, and Browns' words and mere presence has been credited with helping to keep the peace in Boston while other cities were erupting in riots.

English progressive rock band Pink Floyd were the first band to perform at the Boston Garden with a stage set that cost over $1 million on their 1977 Animals tour. This and their 1975 performance at the same venue are available on ROIO recordings. According to Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason's book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Pink Floyd almost got banned from the Boston Garden after their 1975 and 1977 performances because the band, unbeknownst to the venue's owners, used pyro during their performances (the crashing plane on On the Run in 1975 and the exploding pig for Pigs (Three Different Ones) in 1977 and firework displays on Sheep and Money). However, the band's road crew outsmarted the fire marshals by removing the pyro props quickly after they used them in the shows to prevent the band from being banned.

Fellow English progressive rock band Jethro Tull performed at the Boston Garden as a headlining act more times than any other rock band with 15 headlining performances between 1971 and 1980.

American rock band Grateful Dead performed at the Boston Garden more times than any other band with 24 performances from 1970 to 1994, and were intended to be the last band to play the Garden, with six shows scheduled for September 1995, which were cancelled due to the death of Jerry Garcia on August 9, 1995.

Detroit rocker Bob Seger recorded a bulk of his 1981 double live album Nine Tonight at The Boston Garden in October, 1980. Five years before, The J. Geils Band recorded most of their November, 1975 show at The Boston Garden for their 1976 double live album Blow Your Face Out.

Other noted rock bands to have played here (aside the previously aforementioned acts) are AC/DC, Aerosmith, Bad Company, The Band, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Boston, The Cars, Alice Cooper, Cream, Deep Purple, The Doors, The Eagles, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Foreigner, Guns and Roses, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osbourne, Pearl Jam, The Police, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Rush, Bruce Springsteen, Styx, U2, Van Halen, The Who, Yes and ZZ Top.

Bobby Orr scoring "The Goal" against the St. Louis Blues, winning the 1970 Stanley Cup.
Bobby Orr scoring "The Goal" against the St. Louis Blues, winning the 1970 Stanley Cup.

The facility hosted the 1929, 1939, 1941, 1970, 1972, 1988, and 1990 Stanley Cups, the 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987 NBA Finals, the NBA All-Star Game in 1951, 1952, 1957, and 1964, and the NHL All-Star Game in 1971, amd WWF's Survivor Series 1993. The NCAA Frozen Four was contested there from 1972-74.

The last official game played at the Garden took place on Sunday, May 14, 1995. It was Game 5 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils. The Devils edged the Bruins, 3-2, winning the series 4 games to 1. The last event to have been held at the Boston Garden was a preseason game between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens on September 28, 1995.