- Greg Venuto
Madison Square Garden – New York Rangers
Photos by Lloyd Brown and Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Madison Square Garden 4 Pennsylvania Plaza New York, NY 10001
Year Opened: 1968
The Arena That Rarely Sleeps
Our latest visit to Madison Square Garden (MSG) was for a rare Saturday night New York Rangers contest (only 2 all season). Saturday night at MSG usually belongs to the New York Knicks. But this time, the Knicks had a 12-noon tip versus Dallas and the arena was cleaned, polished, and transformed for hockey in time for a 7:30 pm. Rangers-Chicago Blackhawks game. Time was an issue as New York Rangers fans were not allowed into the building until 6:30 pm.
On this particular weekend, the Rangers occupied the building on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Knicks were on the docket Saturday afternoon and Sunday night and the ice was in play again Monday evening for the Blueshirts. MSG also hosts several St. John’s basketball games, WWE wrestling, and concerts.
The Garden received a much-needed facelift from 2011-2013. The inside of the arena was upgraded to include new seats and bathrooms, wider concourses, new luxury suites closer to the ice, club seating areas with high-end food, and a Bridge Level with seats that provide a great aerial view from and some bar stool seating. The West Balcony was also added which replaced the old skyboxes.
There are five entry points - four on 8th Avenue and the main entrance which leads to the lobby is on 7th Avenue. There has been talk by NYC Mayor Eric Adams to entice owner Jim Dolan to move MSG to allow Penn Station to take over the space. At this juncture, nothing has been finalized, but the Garden’s operation permit expires in 2023 so some politicians feel the city has leverage.
Food & Beverage 4
In addition to traditional fare, the lower bowl includes Lavo Meatballs, Avenue Cantina, Carnegie Deli, Mike’s Hot Honey (chicken), Fuku chicken sandwiches, Mighty’s Quinn’s Barbeque, and Tao Sushi. Other choices include Daily Burger, Garden Market, and Chicken and Things.
There are also vegan and gluten-free options. For beverages, there are craft beers on tap (Blue Point, Shock Top, and Goose Island) and mixed drinks. Pepsi products are the beverage of choice. A 32oz Pepsi or Mountain Dew is $7 and Aquafina is $6. Many of these options are on the 200 level with less of the high-end fare.
The Bridge Level includes Daily Burger, Chicken & Things, Bar at the Garden, and Fratelli’s Pizza. Remember to have your Chase Card handy as a 20% discount is offered for fans who spend $30 or more.
At Avenue Cantina, a Quesadilla is $14, loaded Chicken Nachos are $16, and Carne Asada tacos are $17 (for three). A corned beef or pastrami sandwich is $18 at Carnegie Deli and a Pulled Pork sandwich is $15 at Mighty Quinn’s.
The lines get extremely long at the end of the period. Two tips: head to the concession stands before the horn sounds or if possible wait for the end of the second period as lines are not as long during the second intermission.
Madison Square Garden is special, from the lobby at Chase Square to the exhibits which commemorate special events. The inside features the iconic ceiling with a cable-supported roof. The 28’ x 57’ scoreboard (which displays the names and numbers of all skaters on the ice throughout the game) over center ice is riveting and then your eyes are drawn to the Chase Bridges which cross the ice at the top of both sides of the upper bowl.
MSG Ceiling, Photo by Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey
Four banners commemorating the Ranger's four Stanley Cup wins hang from the rafters over the Club Lounge seats. The lower bowl is located on the 6th floor and the upper level is on the 7th floor. Fans can take escalators to the seating areas but check with Guest Services and they will direct persons who need assistance to elevators and can call for a wheelchair if needed.
The arena is divided into Sections 100 thru 400 and in addition, there are 96 suites on the Club Level. The sightlines have been much improved since the more than $1 billion renovation that was completed a decade ago.
The current building pays homage to the old Blue Seaters who were the raucous backbone of the Rangers in the 70s and 80s. The 400 Level features blue seats and is appropriately named ‘’The Blue Seats’’ for the former Garden faithful.
The area around MSG, located in midtown Manhattan, is busy and boisterous. Pedestrians, taxis, trucks, cars, and buses flood 7th and 8th Avenues and 34th Street even late at night. Penn Station is situated beneath the building and the new bold and beautiful Moynihan Train Station is directly adjacent to MSG on 8th Avenue.
Macy’s, Empire State Building, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center are within walking distance. There is the Molly Wee Pub and Mustang Harry’s for pre-gaming as well as Koreatown. NY Pizza Suprema, 413 8th Avenue, is often rated one of the best pizza places in Manhattan.
There is a bevy of lodging options including The New Yorker Hotel, Fairfield Inn and Suites, and the Renaissance New York.
New York Rangers fans are dedicated and loyal but not as loud as they were since winning the Stanley Cup in 1994. Prices have forced loyal fans to watch more games from home as MSG has catered to the rich and famous.
The Garden still erupts for goals by the home team as they break into the Goal Song (Hey, Hey, Hey Hey!) with the horn blaring and the red lights swirling under the Jumbotron. The fan's favorite chant is Let’s Go Rangers to rally their team and Igor, Igor! after a great save to salute Vezina-winning goalie Igor Shesterkin if he happens to be manning the net.
The ultimate Rangers fan is Larry Goodman (aka Dancin Larry) who dances to Strike It Up at almost every game during the final TV timeout of the 3rd period with the Rangers cheerleaders encouraging his act. Larry has been doing his thing since 1996.
The Garden does a good job of displaying plenty of crowd shots during breaks in the action. MSG mixes the organ with music, but on the whole, the music selection could be better and does not seem to elicit much crowd reaction.
Except for traffic around MSG, access is a plus. The Path Train from NJ, Subway stations on 7th and 8th Avenue, LIRR trains from LI and Queens underneath at Penn Station, and Grand Central Station (serving Westchester and Connecticut) is about a 15-20 minute walk.
Driving to MSG can be problematic coming in from the West Side Highway or East River Drive. There are plenty of parking facilities nearby so check Spot Hero or Park Whiz to prepay for parking which could be as low as $18-$30.
Return on Investment 3
The investment for one event at MSG is costly. A decent seat runs about $100. The lower bowl will be $150 or more for behind the goal (not including TicketMaster fees) and much more to sit on the center ice. Food and beverages are pricey but much more options are available and the quality has improved. For the most part, steer clear of souvenirs and look for less costly options online or in local sporting goods stores.
The Garden also offers the Hulu Theater which features comedy, kids' shows, and concerts. Billy Joel, who holds the record for the greatest number of appearances at the Garden with 131 shows as of December 2022, stated that "Madison Square Garden is the center of the universe as far as I'm concerned.”
The classic Rangers sweater has been in use since the franchise's foundation in 1926, with several alterations along the way. Tex Rickard was the first owner of the Rangers, one of the Original Six teams that competed in the NHL before its 1967 expansion, along with the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
MSG is certainly a must-see venue not just for avid hockey fans but for casual and non-sports fans too. The Arena sells itself plus the Garden produces a worthy day or evening of entertainment.