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. It would eventually outlive its original namesake by some 30 years. 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 1997, a few years after the completion of its new successor arena, the FleetCenter, now called TD Banknorth Garden. Another name is the "Garden" or "The Gahden" (in the Boston accent).
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, harassing 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.
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 still-extant Boston Arena (now known as Northeastern University's Matthews 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, Massachusetts.
The Garden was also infamous for several design flaws, such as seating that was obstructed by enormous cement pillars. Some seats were situated directly behind them. The hockey rink was undersized as it was nine feet shorter and two feet narrower than standard (200 feet by 85 feet), due to the rink being built at a time when the NHL did not have a standard size for rinks for arenas to go by. The setup 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.
The Garden had no air conditioning, resulting in fog forming over the ice during Bruins' playoff games. During Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals, the 97-degree heat was so intense that oxygen tanks were provided to exhausted players; to this day this game is known as the "Heat Game."
The electrical systems were notoriously unreliable; the 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. However the power-outage had nothing to do with the Garden; it was a transformer in the North End that knocked out power to all areas, including the Garden. Two years later, on May 15, 1990, the lights went out during an overtime finals game between the same two teams, only because they'd been on for so long (the game went to 3 overtimes and lasted 6 hours) 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.
James Brown played a notable 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 Brown's words and mere presence has been credited with helping to keep the peace in Boston while other cities were erupting in riots.
Elvis Presley performed in Boston only once, at the Garden on November 10, 1971 pulling a crowd of about 15,500 and receiving high appraisal from Rolling Stone journalist Jon Landau for his performance.
In 1972, the Rolling Stones were scheduled to perform at the Garden, but did not arrive, due to their being detained by police after a drug bust in Providence, where they'd appeared the previous evening. Fearful that angry Stones fans (already in the Garden awaiting the show) would riot, then-mayor Kevin H. White flew to Providence to bail the band out of jail and deliver them to the Garden to play their set. The band had also played at the venue in 1969 and for the last time in 1975.
In 1973, The Who were scheduled to perform at the Garden, but almost didn't perform, due to the band being detained by police after destroying a hotel room in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where they'd appeared the previous evening. The band was eventually released from jail and managed to arrive at the Garden in time for their show and took out their frustrations on being arrested the night before by delivering a blistering performance and attacked the Montreal police and dedicated "Won't Get Fooled Again" to the Montreal police and Who drummer Keith Moon (for the rest of the Quadrophenia tour) changed one of the lyrics to the song "Bell Boy" from "remember the gaff where the doors we smashed" to "remember Montreal at the hotel we trashed" or variations of the band being arrested. Almost three years later in March 1976, Keith Moon collapsed at his drum kit during the second song "Substitute" after downing muscle relaxers and brandy before the show. The band had to reschedule the performance for early April and the rescheduled performance turned out to be one of The Who's best performances. The Who's last performance at the Garden was in December 1979 on their first tour following Keith Moon's death. That performance was almost canceled as a result of the death of a number of fans at a Who show in Ohio the previous week as a result of the crush of fans trying to get in early for a general admission show. The Boston City counsel held a televised hearing on the issue of whether to allow the show to go forward and ultimately decided to permit it because there was no general admission seating in Boston. The show was marred by a fan throwing a fire cracker on stage, causing Pete Townsend to scream obscenities in the general direction of the source before getting on with the tension filled show.
In 1975, English rock band Led Zeppelin were banned from performing at the Boston Garden 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, broke into the Garden and trashed the seating area, the ice, and most of the refreshment stands, leading then-mayor White to cancel the upcoming show and ban the group for five years. A year later, KISS was banned from performing at the Garden as well because the band refused to comply with the venue's no pyrotechnic policy after fire marshals had watched their flamethrowers hit the ceiling at the Orpheum.
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 (album) tour (they first played there in 1975 on the band's Wish You Were Here tour). 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 1977 performances because the band, unknown to the venue's owners, used pyrotechnics during their performance (the exploding pig for Pigs (Three Different Ones) 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 and also according to Mason's book since their manager had an Irish name (Steve O'Rourke), the band escaped being arrested. The band would not play the venue again opting for the Providence Civic Center and Foxboro Stadium on their 1987/1988 and 1994 tours respectively.
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 (as an opener or middle of bill or headliner), and were intended to be the last band to play the Garden, with six shows scheduled for September 1995, which were canceled due to the death of Jerry Garcia on August 9, 1995. The Dead were banned from the Garden for a number of years because they were caught grilling lobsters on a fire escape before a performance. The Grateful Dead have released Dick's Picks Volumes Dick's Picks Volume 12 & Dick's Picks Volume 17 from performances at the Garden on 6–28–1974 and 9–25–1991.
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. The Geils band returned again, and had the historical distinction of being the first band in history to sell out a three night stand in 1984 at the Garden featuring hometown favorites Jon Butcher Axis as opening act.
Hometown band Aerosmith performed at the Boston Garden ten times from 1975-1995 and twice played New Year's shows there, ringing in the New Year from 1989–90 and again in 1993-94.
The opening of the Worcester Centrum and the Great Woods Amphitheatre caused a massive dropoff in concerts at the Garden from the early 80's until the early 90's. The age of hair metal practically passed the Garden by completely, as most bands from that era played the Centrum in the winter and Great Woods in the summer. Poor acoustics, a busy sports schedule, expensive booking fees, and difficulty with local unions all contributed to the migration to more modern venues outside of Boston. For whatever reason, bands started returning to the Garden in the very late 80's and early 90's, highlighted by Pearl Jam's multi-night stand in 1994 and the Dead's lengthy residences there before the Garden finally closed.
Other noted rock bands to have played here (besides the aforementioned acts) are AC/DC; Allman Brothers Band; Bad Company; The Band; The Beach Boys; The Beatles; Billy Joel; Black Sabbath; Boston (band); The Cars; Alice Cooper; Phish; Cream (band); Deep Purple; The Eagles; Elton John; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Foghat; Foreigner; Guns N' Roses; Jimi Hendrix; Kansas; The Kinks; Metallica; Nine Inch Nails; Ted Nugent; Ozzy Osbourne; Pearl Jam; Peter Frampton; The Police; Queen; Rush; Bruce Springsteen; Styx; U2; Van Halen; Yes and ZZ Top.
The facility hosted games in the 1929, 1930, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1978, 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. The NCAA Frozen Four was contested there from 1972 to 1974.
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.
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