September 25, 2014

Normand Leveille And The Last Hurrah For The Boston Garden

On September 26, 1995 the Boston Bruins played their last game ever at the fabled Boston Gardens. Fittingly their final opponent was the Montreal Canadiens - their eternal rivals who also was their first opponent way back in 1928.

Because this final game was a pre-season NHL exhibition match, the Bruins took the opportunity to extend a few liberties. Most notably the game was not played with the traditional three 20 minute periods, but rather two 25 minute halves. Why? That allowed a lengthy half time for the Bruins to honour their most respected opponents, such as Jean Beliveau, Stan Mikita, Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Frank Mahovlich.

At the game's conclusion it was the Bruins' greats who were honoured. Milt Schmidt, Bobby Orr, Terry O'Reilly, Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito and so many others. The highlight had to be "The Final Skate" when the legends and the current team took their final laps on Garden ice, saluting the fans.

But the highlight of the night had to be the emotional return of Normand Leveille to the Gardens ice. With captain Ray Bourque's help, Leveille skated to center ice (and later joined The Final Skate) to a rousing ovation. Leveille was once a very promising Bruins player who suffered a brain aneurysm in the first period of a 3-2 loss to Vancouver in 1982. Leveille, who scored both goals in the Bruins loss, never played hockey again.

For some more YouTube finds, here's a walk through the now extinct Boston Garden:

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