For more than 45 years, Madison Square Garden has been the pinnacle for arenas. The lights, the buzz, the banners hanging from the rafters and most importantly, the history, has created a feeling inside "The Garden" that is second to none. "The World's Most Famous Arena" sits on its throne, deep in midtown Manhattan and from the moment the doors first opened, it has been described by many; whether it be sports stars, celebrities, musicians and others, as the epicenter of the stadium world. Due to the legacy of MSG, it is possible to name over 100 moments that stick out in the memory of many, but here are the top 12.
12) Wrestlemania I (1985)
For the first time on pay-per-view and closed circuit television, the World Wrestling Federation would enter the home of more than one million viewers. Inside MSG, Hulk Hogan would team up with Mr.T in a tag team match against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. In what was perhaps the most hyped up event in the history of the WWF, there was no better place to build the foundation.
11) Elton John and John Lennon perform together (1974)
In what was Lennon's last live performance before he was killed, the duet sang "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as well as Lennon's "One Day at a Time". Lennon lived up to his promise of joining Elton John on stage if "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" a song featuring the pair, reached number one. Not only marking a moment in the life of both Elton John and Lennon, but the sold out crowd would be mystified by the showmanship of the two.
10) Bill Clinton wins the Democratic Nomination (1992)
Clinton, the young Governor from Arkansas would accept the Democratic nomination inside of MSG with his running-mate Al Gore by his side. As streamers fell from the rafters, Clinton would exit the stage to Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop"....and he sure wouldn't, moving on to defeat the Republican nominee George W. Bush to claim the presidency.
9) Wayne Gretzky Retires (1999)
After two decades in the National Hockey League, the "Great One" said goodbye on the ice of MSG. The eight time all-star and inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame holds records for most goals, assists and points as well as consecutive 40-goal seasons, 50 goals in 50 games, four Stanley Cup rings and countless others. Having skated his last game in New York Rangers blue, Gretzky is considered one of the greatest players of all time.
8) From the Big Apple to the Big Easy (2005)
To raise money after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina along the gulf coast, Elton John, Jimmy Buffett, Elvis Costello and others, showcased their music in front of a sold out crowd. The concert is said to have raised approximately $9 million for relief efforts.
7) Pope John Paul's visit (1979)
Perhaps one of the most charismatic and important religious figures of our time; when John Paul II made his pastoral visit to the United States, thousands gathered not only inside of MSG, but also outside of the historic arena. It was a moment in time that people will never forget and a significant part of John Paul's papacy.
6) Stephane Matteau's Game 7 OT playoff goal (1994)
"Matteau! Matteau! And The Rangers have one more hill to climb baby" cried out Howie Rose; a call that could be recited by almost every Ranger fan. It was the night Stephane Matteau sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals with his overtime goal clincher during game seven of the Eastern Conference finals against their hated rivals, the New Jersey Devils. With one quick wrap-around behind the net, Matteau was able to slide the puck past Devils' goaltender Martin Brodeur, sending "The Garden" crowd into an absolute frenzy. The Rangers would go on to play the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup and break the 54-year curse that haunted them.
5) The Concert for New York City (2001)
In response to the September 11 attacks that took the lives of over 3,000 Americans, several musicians including Bon Jovi, The Who, Jay-Z, The Rolling Stones, John Mellencamp and others took to the stage under the bright lights of MSG. With an emotional crowd in front of them, many holding up pictures of lost loved ones, the backdrop lined with a large American flag created a scene that could never be reenacted.
4) Knicks win 1973 NBA title
After a heartbreaking loss the year before in the NBA finals, the Knicks returned to the spotlight in 1973, seeking revenge against the team that defeated them just a year ago, the Los Angeles Lakers. On the backs of Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, Jerry Lucas, and Willis Reed, the Knicks were able to win four straight games, claiming their second championship in four years. "The Garden" crowd would relish the Knicks championship for decades, as they wouldn't return to the finals until 1994.
3) Ali/Frazier I
It was entitled the "Fight of the Century" and for good reason. The champion, '"Smokin" Joe Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali via unanimous decision in one of the heaviest hyped boxing matches of all-time. The two boxers entered MSG on March 8, 1971, both undefeated, but Ali was the one that came away with the loss. More importantly, many viewed the fight as a symbol of America. Ali, who strongly spoke out against the Vietnam War, refused to accept his enlistment into the Army years prior, while Frazier was seen as an icon for the pro-war movement. Many celebrities were in attendance for the fight as well as protesters, a riled-up crowd, and hundreds of policemen sent to keep control. The fight didn't disappoint, going the distance as the two fighters battled in the ring for 15-rounds, Frazier leaving the arena victorious.
2) Knicks vs. Lakers Game Seven of 1970 NBA Championship
After losing game six of the NBA finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks looked like they were going to give away a championship. A leg injury to star Willis Reed forced him to miss game six and crushed the spirit of teammates and fans. As the teams were warming up, many believed that Reed would not play. Seconds later, the crowd erupted as Reed limped onto the court. He would go on to score the first two baskets before being taken out, but the Knicks went on to win their first NBA championship due to the momentum that Reed swung into his team's favor.
1) Rangers win the 1994 Stanley Cup
A 54-year curse broken and perhaps the greatest moment inside of MSG...the Rangers went on to defeat the Canucks in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. "The waiting is over!" broadcast announcer Sam Rosen yelled to fans all throughout the New York area who fell to their knees in joy. Rangers captain and legend, Mark Messier, jumped around the ice as his teammates from the bench greeted each other with their sticks flying into the sky. Die-hards claimed they could "die happy" after seeing the team tour the ice with Lord Stanley's Cup raised above their heads. It was a night that everyone will remember, whether you were there or not, born or alive...having that event inside of MSG, made it all that much better.
Tonight, artists from a variety of genres including Kanye West, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, The Who, Eddie Vedder, Paul McCartney and others, will grace the stage inside of MSG in an effort to raise money for the relief effort after Hurricane Sandy. There is a reason why all of the stars will align on one stage...because it's Madison Square Garden.