Blog_12.21.12; ODE TO OLD NHL RINKS; Part III
This is part three of a three part series where I focus on some of the ‘charismatic’ old buildings on the NHL circuit that no longer host teams.
The Boston Garden; Boston MA
The Garden (or Gahden) was a gem. Located in the heart of downtown Boston, this NHL/NBA facility was a real throwback. Dark, small and chock full of banners. The rink itself was undersized at 191 ft. long by 83 ft. wide. As a result, Bruins teams were built big and physical; you generally left Boston feeling like you had just played two.
In the day, the Bruins organization had a reputation for, how shall I say …. finding an edge. I swear Bruins manager Harry Sinden used to lock the thermostat in the visitors room at 85 degrees. You had a full lather on before you headed out for the warm up skate.
To say that certain seats in the Garden had poor sight lines was a gross understatement. Early in my career on a Calgary Flames trip through Boston, I was a healthy scratch (shocker I know). I am the lone Flame sitting out on this night and I have no idea how to get to the press box. So I end up taking a seat in the upper deck in one end zone. Seemed like a great idea at the time but after I park it in a seat near the back of the upper deck, I learn that you can’t see the rink beyond center ice. True story. The overhang above the one upper deck prevented you from seeing the far side of the playing surface.
So Boston breaks out of its own end and heads toward the Flames’ net. All of a sudden, the guys disappear. I am no longer watching the game so much as listening to the fans that can actually see the game to get a sense of what’s happening at the other end. Bizarre.
The Winnipeg Arena; Winnipeg Manitoba
That the Winnipeg Arena was dated was not THE reason the Jets left Winnipeg in 1996 but this ‘ole barn was certainly no reason to stay in ‘Winterpeg‘ either. Renovations in 1979 grew capacity to 15,565, and created some obstructed views in the process. Additionally, the stands in one end zone were a straight run from the rink side seats all the way to the top of the building. There was nothing but a single run of concrete steps from the top of that end zone all the way down to ice for about 100 ft. Not a handrail, not a landing, nothing. I often thought to myself (in those long stretches between shifts) “if some poor, unsuspecting fan ever lost his footing at the top of that stadium, there was nothing to stop his fall until he face-planted into the glass at ice level.”
One of the great hockey traditions to come out of Winnipeg and the Arena was the White Out. Jets fans would wear nothing but white during the playoffs and they would nearly lift the lid off the building. To this day the tradition lives on in most NHL rinks. Nearly every NHL city has adopted its own version of the White Out.
The Arena had one other distinct characteristic. Where else do you see a 21’ x 15’ painting of the Queen hanging from the rafters? To be clear, this was a beautiful portrait. But, as a player, it was very daunting to have the monarch supervising your every move out there. During those quiet, lonely moments in the box I often wondered “if her Highness approved of me and Jim McKenzie trading hands at center ice just now?”
The shot below gives you a pretty good look at the three highlights described above. The White Out, Queen Elizabeth and the “Widow-maker” at the far end.
See you around the rink.
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