Why are hockey arenas called gardens?

Sports stadiums go by a lot of different names – barn, forum, center, arena. But, have you ever wondered why there are a number of different hockey arenas that have used the term garden? What does a garden have to do with a hockey arena? 

So why are hockey arenas called gardens? The first arena that was called a garden was Madison Square Garden, which renamed the building from Gilmore’s Garden. Additionally, the name ‘garden’ in the past was associated with large public space for events. Subsequent arenas that have been named garden have taken this naming from Madison Square Garden.  

Madison Square Garden

The first hockey arena to be called a garden was Madison Square Garden in New York. 

The first thing that you need to know about Madison Square Garden is that there has actually been four of them. And, the first one that came into existence was simply renamed.

It all started in 1874 when P.T. Barnum converted an old railroad depot into an open air arena called the Great Roman Hippodrome. 

The original building that P.T. Barnum used before being renamed to Gilmore’s Garden and then Madison Square Garden

Barnum moved on from the arena, and it was then leased to Patrick Gilmore in 1876. Gilmore would rename the arena to Gilmore’s Garden. 

But why garden?

The arena itself had never been a garden, but there was precedent that other buildings beforehand in the New York area had been called garden. There was Castle Garden, which was an entertainment center, and Niblo’s Garden, which was a theatre. 

This would align with the thought that the word garden was once used, more commonly, as a name for a large area for public events. 

No one knows for sure why he called it a garden, but Gilmore’s Garden had hosted a number of events including flower shows, beauty contests, and music concerts in New York.  

William Vanderbilt would eventually by the building from Gilmore and on May 31, 1879 he officially renamed it. Vanderbilt would keep the name Garden but added Madison Square to it because the property was located at 26th Street and Madison Avenue. 

The arena is now on it’s fourth instalment and has changed locations, but each time it has kept the name Madison Square Garden.  

Boston Garden

How did the Boston Garden get its name?

Well, people in Boston may not like this considering the Boston versus New York rivalry in sports (and everything else), but it all started in New York!

As mentioned above Madison Square Garden has had four instalments throughout its life. The third instalment was built and operated by Tex Rickard. Rickard had a plan after building Madison Square Garden to build seven more of these across the country. 

Rickard along with local Boston businessman ended up building a version of the Madison Square Garden in Boston and ended up calling Boston Madison Square Garden after it’s namesake. The Boston Madison Square Garden would open up in November 17, 1928.

Not long after the opening the name was shortened from Boston Madison Square Garden to Boston Garden.

The original Boston Garden officially closed in 1995, and was finally demolished three years later in 1998. 

The new Boston Arena was also given the name Boston Garden with the corporate sponsor name being added beforehand. 

Maple Leaf Gardens

For the first 13 years of their existence the Toronto Maple Leafs played in an arena called the Arena Gardens. The Arena Gardens was built in 1912 and held 7,500 spectators.

Conn Smythe determined that the arena was too small and decided a new one needed to be built. In 1931 the new arena for the Maple Leafs opened, which was called Maple Leaf Gardens.

It was not known exactly why the Arena Gardens and Maple Leaf Gardens were called Gardens instead of another designation. However, it is plausible and likely that it went along with the most famous arena of the day, Madison Square Garden, and simply followed the naming of it. 


I think it is safe to say that arenas that are called Gardens are paying homage and credit towards the most famous arena in the world – Madison Square Gardens. 

Madison Square Gardens in some form has been around for almost 150 years, and has held numerous world class events. 

When an arena is called Gardens it is really a tip of the hat to the great event center that has come before. 

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