Madison Square Garden: House of Horrors

Madison Square Garden. It’s called the world’s most famous arena, but for its two prime tenants, the Knicks and the Rangers, it’s been a house of horrors.

For the most part, it’s the visitors who shine brightest at the Garden — from Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and the like on the hardwood, to Bobby Orr, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux and so many others on ice.

Since the current MSG atop Penn Station opened in February of 1968, the Knicks have managed to win just two championships and the Rangers one in what now ranks as the oldest arena in both the NBA and the NHL.

2009 Prospects Bleak
And neither the Knicks or the Rangers are poised to make a serious championship run this year. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year as they try to recover from the Isiah Thomas debacle and await 2010 and a crops of free agents led by LeBron James.

And despite a rash of desperate deals before the trading deadline, the Rangers will have a difficult time hanging onto their current playoff position. Even if they do make the playoffs, the Blueshirts, given their lack of scoring punch, especially on the power play, will be lucky to get past the first round.

For the locals, it really comes down to two moments in time, two game seven victories for the ages:

May 8, 1970 — When an injured Willis Reed . left, hit his first two shots and the Knicks beat the Lakers, 113-99, to win their first NBA championship.

June 14, 1994 — When Mark Messier, below, scored the winning goal as the Rangers beat the Canucks, 3-2, to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

Oh, the Knicks did win another championship in 1973, beating the Lakers in five games, but that final game was played in the Los Angeles Forum.

Six-Time Losers
And they advanced to the NBA finals six other times — 1951-53, 1972, 1994 and 1999 — and came up empty each time. The first three Eastern Conference champions  played at the old Madison Square Garden, also called MSG III, located at 50th Street and 8th Avenue. Only two of those six Knick finales, 1953 against the Minneapolis Lakers and 1999 against the San Antonio Spurs, were decided at the Garden.

The Rangers won three Stanley Cups in their formative years (1928, 1933 and 1940), but all three championships were won on the road. In fact, until they moved into the new Garden in 1968, the Rangers were often forced to the road for playoff games while the circus played Madison Square Garden.

Six times the Rangers lost the Stanley Cup finals (1929, 1932, 1937, 1950, 1972 and 1979). Typical of their playoff wanderings, the 1950 Rangers played two games at Toronto and five on the road, losing to the Detroit Red Wings in overtime of game seven.

The Rangers lost to Boston at home in both the 1929 and 1972 Cup Finals; the others were all decided away from the Garden.

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