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Nostalgia: Boston Garden Hosts First Game

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room. A graduate of Boston U. and Northeastern, 'Bish' grew up in Connecticut and moved to the Hub of Hockey in 1993. Since then he has made all four rinks at the Beanpot schools, as well as both Gardens, his icebound homes away from home. Prior to joining the TD Banknorth Garden staff in 2005, Bishop had written for several publications, with his primary focus being college hockey. He coauthored the book Bygone Boston in 2003 and hopes someday to pen a bio of Hobey Baker.
I was thinking about Boston's hockey fans this morning and with the first game of the 2007-08 season coming up, I decided to take a look at a game story from the Bruins first game in the old Boston Garden and see what kind of reception the Black & Gold (actually they were the Brown & Gold then) received way back in 1928.

Knowing the timbre of most Bruins fans (i.e. intense), I was not surprised by the accounts of yesteryear.

It was Tuesday, November 20, 1928 and the next morning the headline on The Boston Globe proclaimed: Great Outpouring of Hockey Fans to See Bruins in First Home Game -- Crowd Packs Boston Garden.

In his lead, Globe writer John J. Hallahan continued to set the tone:

Boston went hockey mad last night when a record crowd of almost 16,000 stormed their way in the new Boston Garden to see the first ice hockey game this season in the National Hockey League between the Boston Bruins and Canadiens of Montreal.

The big crowd hoped for a victory for the Bruins, but was disappointed as the Canadiens tallied once in the second period just for the bell rang for the end of the "round."

Other highlights of the night…

Almost every hockey fan in Greater Boston and those from suburban cities were present. The Bruins were favorites and the big crowd gave each of the players a grand reception as they skated around the playing surfaces to get the feel of the ice…

Of the Bruins' new players, especially Cooney Weiland proved himself to a fine prospect and a player who will be of service to the Boston Club. He was easily the star of the Boston team and was forever on the puck…

Capt. Hitchman, who wore a patch over his eye as a result of a collision in the game at Ottawa on Saturday night, and Eddie Shore, the popular favorite of last year, were not forgotten…

How right Hallahan turned out to be as Weiland might be considered one of the founding fathers of New England hockey and both Hitchman and Shore's jersey numbers grace the ceiling of the present version of the Garden.

After winning two Stanley Cups in Boston whilst he amassed a 131-105-236 line in 365 NHL games, Weiland added coaching to his considerable resume and led the B's to the Stanley Cup in 1940 -- his third with Boston. Later, he traded in his Bruins Black & Gold for Crimson and joined the collegiate ranks as Harvard University's head hockey coach.

As for the two defensemen, they made their place in NHL history. Hockey historian Michael McKinley, in his book Putting a Roof On Winter, writes that "Lionel Hichman and Eddie Shore (were) one of the finest defensive pairings ever iced…'Hitch' was a clean, tough defenseman who took care of business in his own end and left the pyrotechnics to the original 'Mr. Hockey,' Eddie Shore."

Eddie Shore
Thanks to the wonder that is the longevity of the movie Slap Shot, everyone knows what Eddie Shore hockey entails, but on the first evening of the Garden, it was the goalies, and not Shore who stole the show as both Montreal's George Hainsworth and Boston's Tiny Thompson made over 40 saves.

Unfortunately, it was Montreal's Sylvio Mantha who scored the game's lone goal and Hallahan described the scene:

The forwards were all caught up the ice and all (Mantha) had to beat were Hitchman and Shore. Mantha skated around Hitchman's right and instead of passing, got away from Shore and whipped home the winning shot.

And then, another George -- George Mallinson, the referee -- saved the game for Montreal and for Hainsworth and sent the packed crowd home with a bittersweet memory.

You see, Hitchman had earned a measure of redemption when he "let go a drive that sent the rubber hurling by Hainsworth" and put the crowd into what the Globe reports was "a frenzied state, cheering like mad, and there was almost every conceivable noise."

But, "Referee Mallinson ruled the player offside, and would not allow the goal."

Despite the loss, Boston fandom (reportedly the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game outside of New York City) was treated to the most modern of accommodations:

While the surroundings were new to the spectators they found it easy to locate their seats…As an ice palace -- a place were hockey is to be played -- nothing is to be lacking.

Right now, the only thing lacking in this fan's world is Bruins hockey. Training camp, and this season's first game in the TD Banknorth Garden, can't come soon enough.

Oh, and by the way, despite their inauspicious first game, the 1928-29 B's took home The Cup.
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