"Our parents would turn the cars on for lights on the rink," Boston Bruins defenseman Derek Morris told NHL.com. "All you needed was a little bit of light to play and we played in everything."
Snow, sleet and rain, it didn't matter. When their parents couldn't be there, Morris and his buddies even played in darkness.
"Our eyes would adjust with enough street lights around there to see a little," Morris said.
It was a precious time for the Bruins' blueliner, a time of wholesome innocence, when he and his buddies worried only about how the sticks would be divided to choose sides. Thoughts of his next contract, his next team, were a long ways away.
It won't be quite like that on New Year's Day when the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers play the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park (NBC, CBC, RDS, 1 p.m. ET). The sides, of course, are already pre-determined for a big money regular-season NHL game.
Nevertheless, Morris hopes that even for a few fleeting moments, be it in practice the day before or during warm-ups the day of, he will feel like he's back on the old rink behind the arena in Sylvan Lake, his Bauer's cutting through the ice while his homework sat in his backpack on the other side of the boards waiting patiently for the game to end.
"It was about a 10-minute walk downtown (from school) and we played 'til about dinnertime usually," Morris said. "Then we went home and did our homework. If we had no homework, we'd play right until dark. Then we'd go home, go to bed and do the same thing the next day.
"I loved it," Morris continued. "We had a nice group of guys, about 13 of us. We all went to school together and then went down there to play."
Morris remembers bringing his sticks, gloves and skates to school every day just to avoid wasting time. Heaven forbid he had to go home to get his equipment before the daily game began. Time didn't allow for it.
"I was Paul Coffey growing up," Morris said.
His friends were Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and other legendary Oilers. Maybe a few had the gall to be Al MacInnis, Lanny MacDonald or Joe Nieuwendyk of the rival Flames.
The games, as they do on outdoor rinks all across Canada, got intense.
"When you are a kid you never want to lose and hockey players really don't want to lose, never, none of us," Morris said. "Whether it's playing with your buddies or not, so they were intense and they got heated."
Former NHL players Shane Willis and Darcy Loewen would get in the games, too.
"You started out with a position, but it never really panned out that way," Morris said. "You just tried to get the puck and make plays, make moves. When you made a mistake you didn't really know about it. You just went out there and played. It was fun."
That's the way Morris hopes he feels during the Winter Classic.
"We've watched every game and thought, 'You know, it would be fun to play in a game like that,' " Morris said. "It's actually more fun than it is exciting for us because we play in front of a bunch of fans all the time, but in this game you go back to your youth when you step on the ice."
All the way back to Sylvan Lake, where a car's headlights provided enough illumination so the boys could be boys every single day of winter.
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org