You walk out of the bustling mayhem that is known as Penn Station — where exiting the place can be akin to a salmon trying to spawn upstream as hordes of people trying to attend an event at Madison Square Garden (henceforth MSG) collide with the masses of workers around the area whose sole intention is to get home. OK, it’s not that bad, but it’s still plenty crowded. You get outside either via stairs or an escalator and then you turn around on Seventh Avenue and look up at the giant marquee. It’s the first thing that signals that you are, indeed, at MSG.
After walking through the doors and through the turnstile, you have a couple of choices — you can either go to the main arena or you can go to the Theater at Madison Square Garden (though older MSG attendees will remember that it previously was called the Felt Forum, where a lot of boxing matches were held back in the day), where most of the musical acts and other non-sporting events take place. Both of them were built in 1968, after three other incarnations of it had been built and then closed around the city.
Entering the sports arena, you are instantly hit with the sights of history: the championship banners hanging from the rafters. The banners are for both the New York Rangers hockey team and the New York Knicks basketball team, with the most recent ones being 1994 for the Rangers and 1973 for the Knicks (this writer was all of a year old then). Besides the banners, there are retired uniform numbers of players from both teams – instantly memories of players like Mark Messier and Patrick Ewing flood your brain. If they don’t flood your brain, you can read about them in one of the yearbooks that you likely purchased on your way in.
Another memory that may hit you is of Willis Reed’s entrance for Game 7 of the NBA Finals on basically one good leg. At this current writing, though, with a stalemate in NBA labor negotiations, chances are high that you’ll be only attending a Rangers hockey game in the near future — the first one in late October, 2011.
The place that you are sitting in right now has been renovated several times — not that surprising since it is the second oldest basketball arena and the oldest hockey arena. While adding some modern amenities, you can still imagine going back in time and walking around MSG in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
MSG’s capacity for basketball is nearly 19,000 and a bit less than that for hockey — a lot less than baseball and football stadiums, but since it’s enclosed, a full house of fans can most likely rival the most thunderous football or baseball crowd.
The game ends, and you make your way back out into the night (or late afternoon if you attended a day game). As you wind your way through the crowd, you can almost feel like the ghosts of previous attendees are walking with you. Many feet have trod the grounds outside MSG. Many more will follow in the future.