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25 years of TD Garden: Looking at the arena’s best sports moments since it opened in 1995

Paul Pierce and the Celtics celebrated after winning the 2008 NBA championship.
Paul Pierce and the Celtics celebrated after winning the 2008 NBA championship.The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

October 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of TD Garden.

The home of the Bruins and Celtics was known as the FleetCenter back then, and it took a few years for both teams to find success in the new building. In their first 13 seasons in their new home, the Bruins missed the postseason five times, and won just one playoff series. The Celtics did not fare any better, as they failed to qualify for the playoffs in eight of their first 12 seasons.

An "opening ceremony" was hosted at the FleetCenter on Sept. 30, 1995.
An "opening ceremony" was hosted at the FleetCenter on Sept. 30, 1995.CHIN, BARRY GLOBE STAFF PHOTO

Since the inaugural game, when the Bruins tied the New York Islanders, 4-4, on Oct. 7, 1995, the building has seen both organizations turn it around, with each reaching the postseason on a more consistent basis and bringing home a title — two events that are near the top of our list of the most memorable sporting events the building has seen.

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But it’s not just the two main tenants that have been on display: TD Garden has hosted a variety of sporting events, including championships for figure skating, gymnastics, NCAA basketball and hockey, as well as boxing and UFC.

Here is a look at some of the top sports moments at TD Garden.

1. June 17, 2008

Game 6 of NBA Finals: Celtics win first title in 22 years

The Celtics clinched their 17th NBA title with a 131-92 thrashing of the Lakers. The Celtics led from start to finish, outscoring the Lakers, 34-15, in the second quarter to cruise to the lopsided win. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen scored 26 points each, while Rajon Rondo added 21 along with 7 rebounds and 8 assists. Finals MVP Paul Pierce finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

2. May 27, 2011

Bruins defeat Lightning, 1-0, in Game 7 of Eastern Conference finals

This game was flawless. No, really. There wasn’t a single penalty called. Nathan Horton finally broke through in the third period on a nice feed from David Krejci with 7:33 remaining for the only goal. Legendary hockey announcer Doc Emrick said it was the greatest Game 7 he’s been a part of. The Bruins would go on to defeat the Canucks in the Final, winning Game 7 in Vancouver to bring the Stanley Cup to Boston for the first time since 1972.

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3. May 13, 2013

Bruins rally from down 4-1 in third period to win, 5-4, in OT in Game 7 of first-round series against Toronto

It looked like the Bruins' offseason was going to begin early when Nazem Kadri scored to give Toronto a 4-1 lead with 14:31 remaining, but they weren’t about to pack it in. Horton struck first with 9:18 left. With Tuukka Rask off for an extra skater, Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron answered with goals in the final two minutes as the Garden came back to life. Bergeron delivered again in overtime, setting off a raucous celebration on the ice and in the stands.

Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin (left to right) celebrated following Bergeron's game-winning overtime goal against the Maple Leafs.
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin (left to right) celebrated following Bergeron's game-winning overtime goal against the Maple Leafs.Getty Images/Getty

4. May 18, 2008

Celtics defeat Cavaliers in Game 7 of Eastern Conference semifinals

In the first season of the new Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, the Celtics were still feeling their way through the playoffs when they faced the defending Eastern Conference champions. The game turned into a duel between LeBron James and Paul Pierce. James had a game-high 45 points on 14-of-29 shooting, along with three 3-pointers, and 6 assists. But it was the Celtics who prevailed, 97-92, as Pierce scored 41 points on 13-of-23 shooting, along with four 3-pointers, and 5 assists in 44 minutes.

5. April 17, 2013

Bruins fans sing national anthem at first game held in Boston after Marathon bombing

It was an emotional night when the Bruins took the ice just two days after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. After a slideshow projected images of tragedy and hope from the marathon finish line, legendary Garden performer Rene Rancourt began to sing the national anthem. He soon let the crowd take over for an emotional rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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6. May 25, 2002

Celtics rally from 26 down to defeat Nets in Eastern finals

The Celtics were making their first appearance in the Eastern Conference finals in 14 years. In Game 3, they trailed the Nets by 25 late in the third quarter. But they turned it around in the fourth, outscoring the Nets, 41-16, to come away with a 94-90 win. Pierce scored 19 of his 28 points in the final quarter, while Antoine Walker finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

7. Jan. 20, 1996

Boston hosts NHL All-Star Game for first time in 25 years

In its inaugural season, the FleetCenter hosted the NHL All-Star Game, with Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and a host of others taking the ice. Bobby Orr served as an honorary captain, and Ray Bourque was named MVP after scoring the game-winning goal.

8. April 2-4, 2006

Women’s Final Four is played in Boston

Maryland defeated Duke, 78-75, in overtime to win the 2006 NCAA women’s basketball title at the venue then known as TD Banknorth Garden.

Additionally, the arena has hosted men’s tournament games five times, beginning with opening rounds in 1999 and 2003, as well as regionals in 2009, 2012, and 2018.

Earlier this month, the NCAA announced that men’s basketball East Regional games will be held there in 2024.

9. April 9-11, 2015

Providence defeats Boston University, 4-3, to win NCAA men’s hockey title

The Friars rallied from a 3-2 third-period deficit to win the all-Hockey East final.

The venue has continued to feature college hockey, hosting both the Beanpot and Hockey East tournaments annually, and has been the site of three Frozen Fours (1998, 2004, 2015). The 2022 Frozen Four is scheduled to be held at TD Garden as well.

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10. Aug. 16-19, 2018

Simone Biles wins gold at US Gymnastics Championships

Biles claimed her fifth gold medal in the national all-around competition, hosted in 2018 at TD Garden. The US Figure Skating Championships were also held at the arena in 2001 and 2014, as was the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships.

Other notable events

Several numbers have been retired in the new building, with the Celtics honoring Robert Parish and Paul Pierce, while the Bruins have raised the jerseys of Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, Terry O’Reilly, and, most recently, Rick Middleton. The Celtics also honored Red Auerbach for his 50 years with the organization, and last season announced that Kevin Garnett would have his No. 5 retired.

The UFC has held several events at the Garden, with some of the sport’s biggest names featured, including Daniel Cormier, Stipe Miocic, Chael Sonnen, and Randy Couture. Perhaps the most notorious moment was when Conor McGregor defeated Dennis Siver with a second-round TKO on Jan. 18, 2015, in a featherweight bout.


Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.