Since 1879, Madison Square Garden has moved three times and undergone countless renovations, including the final stage of its current facelift, which is scheduled to be completed next month. Through all those changes, the hallowed arena has hosted every conceivable event and some of the most enduring moments in sports and entertainment, earning a reputation as the world's most famous arena.
On Thursday in Manhattan's Madison Square Park, the site of the original Madison Square Garden, some of the people involved in those historic moments came together to mark the opening of a new exhibit commemorating the venue's incredible legacy. They included New York Rangers greats Mark Messier and Brian Leetch, Knicks legends Walt Frazier and John Starks, trailblazing rappers DMC of Run DMC and Mike D of Beastie Boys, boxer Bernard Hopkins, and even former New York governor Mario Cuomo.
Madison Square Garden's new Garden 366 exhibit features numerous historic Rangers moments. Here are some of them:
Nov. 1, 1959: Jacques Plante becomes first NHL goaltender to wear a mask.
Feb. 21, 1981: Don Maloney scores three goals in a Rangers record 2:30.
April 8, 1982: Mikko Leinonen sets NHL record with six assists in a playoff game.
Jan. 22, 1994: Mike Richter (above) named All-Star Game MVP.
May 27, 1994: Stephane Matteau scores double-OT winner in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Oct. 7, 2001: Rangers play emotional first regular season game since 9/11.
"Over the last 133 years, the Garden has played host to some of the most memorable moments in sports, entertainment and politics, and it was important to us that we celebrate and honor this unparalleled history by capturing these incredible moments as part of the transformed Garden," said Hank Ratner, president and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Co.
When the arena opens its doors following its final round of renovations in November, the redone Madison Concourse will include the Garden 366, a visual retrospective featuring a special defining moment in Garden history for each day of the calendar year. That includes Feb. 29, also known as "Leap Day," which happens to be the anniversary of Leetch playing his first NHL game.
"I went home and grabbed some new clothes, rented a car, and stayed in a hotel outside New York. The next day I went to my first practice as a professional," Leetch recalled at Thursday's event. "My eyes were wide open. I had a lot of great veterans help me out, but it was still an amazing experience. Everything was new to me. Madison Square Garden was my first professional home rink. It was quite an experience."
The impressive calendar showcased at the exhibit features crowning achievements in countless sports, including basketball, hockey, tennis, boxing, pro wrestling, track and field, and rodeo, as well as special dates in music, entertainment and politics.
"Whether a fan wants to discover what happened on their birthday, recall events they attended over the years, or learn about all of the magical Garden moments, we believe that we have successfully created what will become a special destination for all fans who visit the Garden," Ratner said. "Over time, as more memorable moments continue to occur, these exhibits will be updated to include the next great moment."
This fall will also see the unveiling of the first 10 of 20 "Defining Moments" that will be commemorated at the arena. The remaining 10 moments will be presented in the fall of 2013.