It was a night like no other at the old Boston Garden on September 26, 1995. The building, by that time old enough to receive Social Security benefits (it opened in 1928), was hosting the last Boston Bruins game to ever be played there. A few months prior, the Garden hosted its last regular-season Bruins game with Cam Neely scoring the final regular-season goal in the building. This was just a very special 1995-96 preseason game.
Both lineups featured legends–or legends in the making. For example:
-Neely (current team president), Ray Bourque (has a son in the Bruins organization now), Adam Oates (newly-enshrined Hall of Famer) and Don Sweeney (current team assistant general manager) for Boston
-Mark Recchi (eventual Stanley Cup champion with Boston), Saku Koivu (well-loved and strong-willed Hab), Donald Brashear (enforcer supreme) and Patrick Roy (current Quebec Remparts coach) for Montreal
For the Garden’s last hurrah, Roy specifically requested to play for the Habs when he was not slated to originally.
After a scoreless first pe–sorry, half–there were some extracurricular activities between the teams just after the half-ending siren. Some things never change.
During the intermission, Ed Westfall and Derek Sanderson lead a fun tour of the arena. They visit the locker room, remembering the times when they sat in those stalls, and the penalty box, which used to play host to rats and players every once in a while. Then they sit in and joke about probably the worst seat in the house, obstructed by a pillar, a worry that the TD Garden doesn’t have.
All the scoring comes in the second half. 3-0 Bruins. Steady cheers for the entire final minute. Sweeney and Bourque contribute two of the three goals.
Among the postgame guests: Johnny Bucyk, Gerry Cheevers, Don Cherry, Woody Dumart, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Stan Jonathan, Gord Kluzak, Normand Leveille (receiving aid from Bourque and Sweeney so he could take one last skate on Garden ice), Rick Middleton, Terry O’Reilly, Bobby Orr, Milt Schmidt. Some of these men would reappear 16 years later, in a new barn this time, to help the 2011 champs raise their banner.
The retired number banners were lowered from the rafters, Orr got some “Wayne’s World”-style ‘we’re not worthy’ bowing from other honored Bruins alumni, then there is one final skate for the alum and current guys as Rene Rancourt sings Auld Lang Syne. Then there’s a video montage that even harkens back to that infamous foggy game in the 1988 playoffs, which may have really helped lead the charge for a new arena, before the last closing shot of the old barn.
Sure, the mid-90s music is kind of cheesy now, the graphics are hilariously outdated and the Boston channel that aired this game isn’t even a UPN affiliate anymore, but those aren’t important. The real focus here is the history and the appreciation the Bruins organization showed for the memories made in, and the fans who haunted, the old Garden.
Interestingly, this was the first preseason game for the Bruins in quite some time. The 1994-95 season was sliced in half and started in January 1995 because of a lockout (sound familiar?), so this was special in many ways. As the oldest American-based team in the NHL, the Bruins have such a rich and storied history. What a shame that there is a third chapter now being written in their history about labor impasse.
To watch the entirety of this special event, check out this newly uploaded YouTube video featuring the entirety of the postgame ceremony rolled into one: