Once Upon a Time at Madison Square Garden

by John Delach

If you were a basketball or a hockey fan during the 1990’s, you’d understand that Madison Square Garden (MSG) was the place to be. This was particularly true for my son, Michael, who was fresh out of college, single, living at home and with money in his pocket thanks to a real job with an insurance company in Downtown Manhattan.

I was a Managing Director at Marsh & Mc Lennan, a premier insurance broker when times were good for the company, its officers and employees.  Frankly, I always considered my managing director title to be a bit of hyperbole where the more common, senior vice president, would have sufficed. But it did give me access to certain perks one being the corporate box at Madison Square Garden. Michael loved all sports, but it was the box at MSG that he found irresistible!

Curiously, the box went unused more times than not for the Knicks and Rangers. My only dilemma to securing tickets for my son was not to pester the gate keeper too often. The gate keeper was a senior executive assistant (aka secretary) to a high-ranking executive. I developed a good relationship with this gal and did favors for her whenever she asked, especially to protect her boss or by fending off unwanted interlopers. My being known as an avid sports fan didn’t hurt either.

Michael’s finest playoff era setched from 1993 until 1997 when he ceased to be a single guy. During this time frame, the Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup and the Knicks lost the NBA Championship to the Houston Rockets in seven games. The Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup run was magical. Demand for tickets didn’t heat up for the quarterfinals against the Islanders nor for the semifinal series against the Capitals allowing me to get him tickets to every home game in each series.  It was only when the Rangers faced the NJ Devils in the Conference Final that I had to back off.

My success rate of securing playoff tickets for the Knicks was less successful, but Mike did go to a couple of their early playoff games.

 Michael’s magical run continued throughout the 1994-1995 seasons. The Knicks made it into the Eastern Division Semi-Finals against the Indiana Pacers.

On May 18th, a Thursday night, Michael took me aside to ask if I could secure tickets for Game 7 scheduled for Sunday, May 21? “ Hold on there, cowboy,” I began my reply, “You and I both know that securing tickets to Game Seven’s is almost impossible.”

Then a bulb lit in my brain: “The Knicks are down two games to three., if they beat the Pacers on Friday night, Game Seven will be in MSG on Sunday night,”

“Son of a bitch! Our Managing Director’s meeting begins this coming Monday, and we are all preoccupied in getting there. Damn, you are good! Nobody can know if there will be a game on Sunday night until after Friday night’s game is over and the Knicks are victorious. That won’t happen until after 11 pm tomorrow night. Nobody will even think of requesting tickets for Sunday until it’s too late.

I waited until just after 3 pm on Friday afternoon to call Miss X, the gatekeeper, “Hey, Miss X,  I need tickets to the box for Sunday’s game. Are there any available?”

“John, actually, you are my first call asking for those tickets. How many do you want?”

Quickly, I blurted out: “Three.”

I let an ecstatic Michael know. That night, the Knicks beat the Pacers, 92 to 82 to force a Game Seven on Sunday night.

Three of my mates joined me to take Amtrak’s Cardinal to our meeting at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. We were still on the train around game time when I called our MSG box on my new cellular phone. When Mike answered: I asked him, “Mike, it’s me. What’s the crowd like?”

After he told me the Garden was full, he challenged me by asking how many people were in the Marsh box. I bit, “Okay, how many?”

“Noah, Anthony and me.”  

The boys witnessed an exciting game. With five seconds remaining in the game and the Pacers leading 97 – 95,  Patrick Ewing, the Knicks star player took an inbound pass and drove to the basket. Ewing had an open lane to the basket, but he began his jump a step too early.

He was too far away to dunk the ball and too close to float it into the basket, so he tried to finger roll the ball into the basket. His attempt was too long, and the ball bounced off the back iron as time expired.

Still, Mike, Anthony and Noah experienced an exciting playoff game in their own exclusive  corporate box. One for their memories.