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Situated near Boston's historic North End, TD Garden is home to both the Celtics and the Bruins. The venue itself stands in stark contrast to the City of Boston's other sports temple, Fenway Park. The Garden feels brand new, indoors, and there's not a bad sightline to be had. However, the Bruins are sort of the neglected stepchild of the Boston sports universe - the only major team in the area without a title in the 2000's (in fact, they haven't won it all since 1972) - and while Bruins fans are still fairly hardy, the experience suffers a bit.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
TD Garden doesn't really offer anything noteworthy in the way of food. Your typical staples abound - hot dogs, sausage, popcorn, ice cream, nachos. Lots of beer. It's all average stadium pricing, although premium beers like Sam Adams will cost $8. We noted an interesting counter where they sold premium hard liquors and mixed drinks, which seemed odd, but they were doing a brisk business. There are some concourse bars on the premises which add a nice touch for loiterers, and an amusing Kosher vending machine that's open 24/6.
To be fair, we attended a mid-season game against the hapless Leafs, but when the first puck dropped, a large number of seats were empty. Many spectators straggled in late. You have to give credit to the management, which does its best to get the crowd riled up with frequent crowd shots displayed on the jumbotron, and plenty of giveaways. They threw "burrito-wrapped" t-shirts into the crowd, had a seat-upgrade contest, and gave away some Bruins Irish-style caps to start the night, which a number of patrons wore throughout the game.
Don Cherry, the famous Bruins coach, was in attendance and the crowd cheered him thoroughly. However, things only really got buzzing when a pair of 1st period fights went down on the ice - without the fights, the atmosphere wasn't anything to write home about.
The immediate area right around the Garden is actually pretty lousy. There are perhaps a dozen crowded sports bars serving bad food and overpriced beer. We hit the Grand Canal, a marginally nicer bar a couple blocks from the Garden, and had dinner. The food was average and the beer wasn't horribly overpriced, which means we were doing pretty well for ourselves.
Halftime Pizza, right across the street from the Garden, is hugely popular before games with greasy slices and plenty of cheap draft beer. Slices are expensive at just under $3 per, but not unmanageable. Just be prepared to wait in line if you show up before a game.
As with Fenway, Boston's compactness actually helps make having a pre- or post-game good time fairly easy. With the Garden, the North End - full of delicious but overpriced Italian food - is a 5-10 minute walk away. If you don't mind walking a little further, there's plenty more to see, do, and eat within a 30 minute walk.
We had balcony seats and were surrounded by exactly what you might expect - drunken goofballs. This has its ups and downs. It's amusing, but people can be pretty stupid. At one point a few balcony sections broke into a rousing chant of U-S-A! U-S-A!, apparently to mock the visiting Canadian team. They didn't realize, or didn't care that there were only 2 Americans actually on the ice, playing hockey at that point in time. At one point a chubby kid on the jumbotron won a personal pizza, and a crusty old jerk sitting next to me started cursing at him and mocking his fatness. Never mind that there was another chubby 10 year-old sitting right in front of him.
Aside from the face-palm-inducing nationalism and general lack of civility, most fans in attendance did what they could to cheer on the Bruins. They got riled up for fights and close shots, and made noise when prompted. You'll get more die-hard fans at Bruins games than at Celtics games on a typical night, but you'll get fewer fans overall and they might seem slightly less invested in the outcome.
The Garden sits right on top of North Station, a transportation hub with access to the Green and Orange T lines and a few commuter rail lines. This makes it pretty easy to access for most Bostonians. Be careful if you park near the Lechmere stop on the end of the green line - you might have to wait up to 30-40 minutes to catch a train out after the game. Regarding driving: Although the Garden is just off I-93, it can be pretty tough to drive here due to traffic. While parking may be slightly cheaper than the Fenway area, the going rate was still around $25.
During intermissions between periods, the concourse is absolutely flooded with fans trying to grab a bite to eat or use the restrooms. The men's room sees some pretty hefty lines and navigating the vending areas can be hazardous to your health. If you can duck out early in the first period to get your food you'll save yourself hassle and time.
As with any sports event in Boston, it's expensive to go to any game at the Garden. Balcony tickets have a face value of about $30, but you'll be lucky to score seats for under $40 via StubHub or other ticket resellers. After a drink and a snack you can't really experience a Bruins game for under $55-60 per person.
However, the Garden delivers a very good spectator experience. There's a lot going on for the entire game and there are really no bad sightlines at all. The seating is very steep but they've done a great job with the construction and you can see all the action no matter where you park your butt. It's easy to have a good time here, but you just have to pay a lot to do it.
Some bonus points are deserved for all the Celtics and Bruins (mostly Celtics) banners hanging from the rafters. Some are also deserved for the preponderance of giveaways. Bruins games deserve an extra point for the awesome number of people wearing bear suits or bear hats, and general preponderance of bear iconography. The celebrating bear on the jumbotron after a B's win is icing on the cake.
Can't say that I agree with this review. TD Garden is perfect for hockey. Located right above North Station, there is the Sports Museum to visit beforehand ($10, closes at 4 pm) that lets you inside the seating bowl when the arena is completely empty. Fans are good and friendly even to those rooting for the opposition, the surrounding area is one of the best in sports, and the banners signify how much history has happened to the two franchises that share the Garden. Improvement in food offerings and a reduction in crazily overpriced tickets would make this even better.
TD Garden is definitely better set up for Hockey than Basketball. You have a great view no matter where you are sitting. Unfortunately with the Bruins latest run of success ticket prices are getting a little outrageous.
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