For their first four seasons, the Boston Bruins played at Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena, home of the Northeastern University Huskies). Then Tex Rickard, owner of Madison Square Garden, had the Boston Madison Square Garden built. The name soon simplified to Boston Garden. On November 17, 1928, President Calvin Coolidge (from the White House) turned on the lights at the new arena. During that first event, the Boxing Carnival Extravaganza, Boston’s Dick “Honey Boy” Finnegan defeated Andre Routis. Three nights later, on November 20, 1928, the Boston Bruins became the first team to play a game at Boston Garden.
Boston Garden was situated near public transportation and closer to the center of the city. It also could fit over twice as many spectators. As part of recapping the first game, John J. Hallahan described Boston Garden’s ice for Boston Globe readers. “The rink, which measures 190 by 85 feet, presented a good layer of ice. It was soft at the start, but improved as the game wore on. The players cut ridges in the surface at the beginning, but evidently the ice freezing apparatus was turned on fully, for in the second and third periods no better ice could have been asked for.” Since Boston Garden was built before the NHL standardized rink sizes, it featured an undersized rink, nine feet shorter and two feet thinner than standard. The Bruins used this to their advantage since visiting teams were used to more space.
As to space, getting into that first game caused major problems. Even with a capacity for over 14,000, when the “rush seats in the top gallery were placed on sale, a line stretched from the box office down Causeway st around the North Station Industrial Building and down Beverly st as far as Warren Bridge” and all tickets completely sold out. City and state policemen in plain clothes reported that Causeway Street and those nearby were “infested with speculators,” with some grown men posing as newsboys but selling tickets instead. They arrested and fined three men but “surmised that at least 2000 men did business with them, buying tickets at twice and three times the face value.”
The Montreal Gazette reported that “thousands of wild hockey fans, unable to buy either seats or standing room, stormed the doors, swept aside police lines and flowed into the building, filling every inch of standing space and almost bulging out onto the ice. Windows were smashed and doors were broken in the wild assault on the building.” Their report noted that the game started 25 minutes late “with half the crowd still battling to get in.” They tallied 17,000 attendees, “the largest that ever saw a hockey game” in Boston. Hallahan of the Boston Globe admitted that the “fans were slow in arriving,” and that “Boston went hockey mad last night when a record crowd of almost 16,000 stormed their way into the new Boston Garden to see the first ice hockey game this season.” He claimed that beyond just Boston, “the crowd was the largest that had ever attended a game in any city of the world excepting New York.”
Those who made it in to see the game did not leave happy with the score. According to Hallahan, “The game, a slow starting one, finished strong, making it a pleasing one for the big crowd.” However, as the Montreal Gazette gloated, the Canadiens “spoiled the opening of the gigantic new Garden tonight by beating the Boston Bruins, 1 to 0.” The lone goal was scored by Canadiens’ defenseman Sylviao Mantha seconds before the second period ended. According to the Gazette, he “made a weaving dash the length of the rink, and scored with a knee-high shot that bounded off [Cecil] Thompson’s pads into the side of the net.” Bruins’ wing Dit Clapper put the puck in the net during the third period, but referee George Mallinson disallowed it as Clapper was offside when he took the pass. The rowdy crowd showed their displeasure at the call by jeering and throwing items from the balconies. This left Canadiens’ goalie George Hainsworth with the shutout. As Hallahan wrote, “He made many remarkable saves, especially in the last period, when his citadel was stormed by the Boston players, trying to equalize the score.” He summarized, “The Bruins played aggressive hockey but were met at every stage by the Canadiens, who appeared to be satisfied with their slim margin. The Boston team kept banging away and boring in.”
The Bruins played at Boston Garden for 67 years. Their final game there was a preseason exhibition against the Canadiens held on September 26, 1995. Boston Garden was demolished in 1998, but the current TD Garden is located right next to the old site.
- John J. Hallahan, “Great Outpouring of Hockey Fans to See Bruins in First Home Game – Crowd Packs Boston Garden,” Boston Globe, 21 Nov. 1928, p. 15.
- “On Watch for Boston Garden Speculators,” Boston Globe, 21 Nov. 1928, p. 17.
- “Crowd of 17,000 Watch Canadiens Down Boston, 1-0,” Montreal Gazette, 20 Nov. 1928, p. 18.