Boston and the Boston Garden lingered over their goodbyes.
BOSTON (AP) _ Boston and the Boston Garden lingered over their goodbyes.
``Everybody’s in agreement that this place should have been closed a long time ago,″ Bill Duffin, a season ticket-holder, said at the Garden’s last game Tuesday night. ``But now that it’s come to pass, it’s hard to say goodbye to a building that’s been so much a part of your life.″
When the final buzzer sounded on the game _ a 50-minute exhibition match in which the Boston Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiens _ nobody left. The fans stood at their seats and cheered as former Bruins greats including Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito were paraded onto center ice to watch their numbers lowered from the rafters for the move into the new FleetCenter.
It was the fourth such Last Game in a yearlong nostalgia-fest.
Celtics greats such as Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Larry Bird were honored at halftime during the Last Regular-Season Basketball Game in April. In May, after the Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs by the Orlando Magic in the Last Postseason Basketball Game, several hundred fans poured onto the parquet, posing for pictures and kissing the leprechaun painted on the center of the court.
Hockey fans said goodbye the first time in May, when the Bruins lost to the Devils in the first round of the playoffs. The crowd stuck around to give one final cheer when the lights were turned out after the Last Postseason Hockey Game.
``It did get a little overdone. Every time a team came in for the last time, they had a ceremony,″ said Lars Fossel, a fan who attended the Absolutely Last Exhibition Hockey Game on Tuesday.
Of course, the yearlong string of last games kept the hard wooden seats filled; tickets for Friday’s closing ceremony cost up to $125 apiece.
Eric Motta brought his 8-year-old son, Eric Allen, to his first and last game in the ancient building Tuesday.
``Before this place shut down,″ Motta said, ``I wanted him to come and see the Garden.″
The giant yellow vault on Causeway Street has been New England’s rallying point for 67 years.
Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beatles played there, and the Grateful Dead came each September; but for last month’s death of the band’s spiritual leader, Jerry Garcia, theirs would have been the Last Concert.
Tex Rickard, developer of Madison Square Garden, built the Boston Garden in 1928 and envisioned it mainly as a boxing venue. The opening night boxing card on Nov. 17, 1928, was a benefit for veterans of World War I. The Bruins and Canadiens faced off there for the first time three days later.
In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt promised in the Garden that Americans would not be sent to fight in foreign wars. Then-presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower made his 1952 campaign promise there to go to Korea. John F. Kennedy held a rally in the building on the eve of his election.
But the most emotional memories are of the Bruins and the Celtics.
The Celts won 16 NBA crowns on the famous parquet floor. Orr scored in overtime as the Bruins won the Stanley Cup championship on May 10, 1970, one of five times the coveted cup has come to Boston.
The $160 million FleetCenter, which debuts Saturday with its own tickets-only opening ceremony, has 18,400 seats for basketball, compared to the Garden’s 14,890, and more than 17,000 seats for hockey, up from 14,448.
``It seems weird that you won’t be able to get an obstructed view seat,″ Fossel said.