A Bostonian Pays a Visit to Hallowed Ground
Seventeen months after the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens faced off in the final game played at Boston Garden, SI's Leigh Montville returned to the fabled arena.
I am back inside the Garden one last time. At least I think it is the last time. I stand at the gate at the east end of the arena, where the Zamboni always exited after cleaning the ice between periods of Bruins games. There is no Zamboni now, and there is no ice. There is supposed to be no Garden.
"Depressing, isn't it?" says Richard Kreswick, president of the FleetCenter, the new arena next door. "We took out the overhead scoreboard just two weeks ago. It's going to a shopping mall." I look at the loose wires where the scoreboard once hung, but oddly enough I am not depressed. Too much else remains.
The concrete floor is intact, as if the ice simply has been removed for the summer. The balconies, painted in that familiar industrial yellow, still hang close to whatever action might develop below. The expensive loge seats, the "new" plastic seats, "only" 22 years old, remain in place because souvenir collectors have little interest in them.
The scoreboard might be gone, but advertising signs remain at each end of the arena. Most of the hockey boards are intact, though without the glass. The television lights on the rafters still work. The concession stands seem ready to open.
I am caught in a deserted Victorian mansion of memory. I am 17, here for the first time to see my high school play basketball in a 1960 tournament. I am older, watching Bill Russell and Larry Bird and Bobby Orr and Cam Neely and, wait, there's Marvelous Marvin Hagler fighting Vito Antuofermo. There's Dylan, Bob Seger, the Rolling Stones.
"There have been various proposals from developers," Kreswick says, acknowledging the building's uncertain future. "Hotels, office towers, any number of ideas. But so far, nothing has been done. It's going to be an expensive proposition, $5 million just to take down the building."
"Maybe someone could just buy the place, fix it up," I say. "Maybe it could be an arena again."