"Elmer Lach. I get knocked down and my skate catches him right across the side of the face. I can see the blood. See it. Teeder Kennedy. My neck is sore, and I get into a fight with him by that bench, and he starts twisting my neck. Do you know how, when you're hurt, the adrenaline gets going? You get stronger? I throw him to the ice, and he separates his shoulder and has a concussion, and his eyes are spinning in his head. I can see that, as if it just happened."
Is that Neil Colville of the Rangers, free and alone against Frankie Brimsek in the seventh game of the Cup playoffs in '39, somehow losing the puck? Is that Frank Selvy of the Lakers, free for the easy five-foot jumper in Game 7 against the Celtics in 1962, a championship in the making? What's that? A miss?
Who's pulling that championship flag to the sky, the basic Boston fall sacrament? Is that Heinsohn, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White? Larry Bird? Who's behind that goaltender's mask? The young kid, Bill Ranford? Gerry Cheevers? Brimsek? Tiny Thompson? Wait a minute. Brimsek and Thompson wouldn't be wearing masks.
See? Today is yesterday. Yesterday is today. The same. Almost the same.
"How were you able to smoke those cigars at the end of the games when you were coaching?" Auerbach is asked. "There's no smoking allowed in the Garden."
"It was the damndest coincidence," he says. "You always could smoke in here before. The year I retired as a coach, they decided there was no smoking. How do you like that?"
The centerpiece is the basketball floor. The antique furniture in the middle of the room. For hockey the distinguishing characteristic of the Garden is that it has the smallest ice surface in the NHL, seven feet missing in the center, a couple more on the sides, ideal for the rough-house style the Bruins traditionally play. For basketball it's the floor. The parquet floor.
Isn't it the most famous floor in the country? Name another famous floor. Would half the males in America even know the word parquet if it weren't for the floor? The floor begins here and extends in the imagination to most of the basketball driveways in the country.
The floor is 40 years old.
"When do they put down the real floor?" a Detroit Pistons rookie asked on his first visit to the Garden this year, during an afternoon workout. "Isn't this the practice floor? When do they put down the real floor?"