STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #20
- Location: Boston, MA
- Opened: 1995
- Capacity: 17,850
- Games attended: 2
- Last attended: 2019
There’s something special about going to see an Original Six team. The fanbase is huge, knowledgeable and passionate. Every seat is occupied. You get a sense that the game matters and that people care. And there’s a purity to the presentation. You would think that any home rink that houses one of those teams would be a top-half rink.
The TD Garden is not. And were it not for the electricity generated by loud and proud Bruins fans, this would be much further down the list.
The building itself is set atop North Station and is a fairly basic venue with a vertical feel. It doesn’t really invite fans to wander, instead funneling them via escalators to their appropriate level. Concessions are decent (the Sal’s pizza super slice is genuinely good) but expensive even for NHL standards. Driving there can be a major pain; for the love of God, take the T and save yourself the grief. And alas, legendary anthem singer Rene Rancourt, he of the post-anthem fist pump, retired taking away one of the greater charms of a Bruins game.
The recent renovation included a poorly-planned replacement of all the seats. The venue went with stylish, black, padded ergonomic seats, cramming an extra 500 into the place. By adding high arm rests and the padding, the new seats felt WAY more cramped and made for an uncomfortable experience. Backlash has been so loud, the Balcony seats will be replaced again. But in an era when fans are getting bigger, and concessionaires are offering bacon cheeseburgers served on a donut, how did this ever happen?
On the positive side, The Garden is located in the great North End neighborhood filled with taverns, restaurants and memorabilia shops. The Sports Museum on levels 5 and 6 is a fantastic hidden gem that should be part of any Boston-area sports traveler’s itinerary. There are oversized murals depicting some of the great moments in team history. The new glass atrium is quite attractive. The Bobby Orr statue out front is one of the best sports statues of any figure. And of course, the loud hockey-loving Bruin fans bring electricity to the building.
Truth be told, The Garden, while by no means a “bad” venue, is a lower-tier physical structure compare to its NHL counterparts. Its location and Game Day atmosphere saves it somewhat, but given all the great buildings in use, this Original Six home is objectively not among the elite venues in the NHL.