As long as the lights were on at Cass Park in Woonsocket, R.I., Philadelphia Flyers' goalie Brian Boucher would be on one of the outdoor rinks skating with his brother-in-law in a mostly adult game of shinny while his oldest sister, Manon, was in the house getting angrier and angrier at her husband for keeping the little guy out so late.
"The lights would stay on until I think 11 o'clock at night, so for a kid who is 11 or 12 staying out there until 10 or 11 o'clock at night on a school night probably isn't advised," Boucher, by far the youngest of four children, told NHL.com. "My parents, though, would go away a lot and that's when it would happen. My sister (12 years older) would be sitting me with her husband -- they would stay at the house and watch me -- and he would take me out there. So, I always wanted them to watch me.
"We'd stay out there forever," he continued. "We would come home really late and my sister would kind of tell him like, 'Hey, it's a school night,' or, 'Hey, it's late.' He was a gamer. He would always stay out there late and take me out there as well. He didn't care."
Boucher grew up in Bruins' country, not far from Fenway Park, the site of the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day. With Tuesday's news that Ray Emery will be sidelined for six weeks after abdominal surgery, there is a very real liklihood that Boucher will be in goal for the Flyers.
Back in the day, Boucher didn't root for the Bruins like most of his friends. Instead, he grew up a Montreal Canadiens fan. When he would play in these outdoor games, including many times with kids his age during the afternoons following school or on weekends, he would always pretend he was a Habs' star like Mats Naslund, Claude Lemieux, Stephane Richer or Shayne Corson.
"I had another buddy of mine that was a Canadiens fan as well, so any time we played together, even in street hockey, we would always be on the same team," Boucher said. "All our buddies were Bruins fans, so it would make for an interesting game."
Boucher, though, would never, ever be a goalie. He left that up to, as he said, "some guy who thought he was Reggie Lemelin, but would be out there in works boots and pads trying to stop pucks."
There was ample ice at Cass Park when Boucher was growing up. There were two rinks separated only by a set of boards. There also was a nearby pond that would freeze over, but, "The rinks were for hockey and the ponds were for skating," Boucher said. "If the skaters were on the rinks you shot a puck in their direction and they got the message."
The town workers tended to the rinks, which unfortunately are no longer there. They would flood them in the winter and clear them off daily so they were playable.
Since we're talking about Rhode Island winters, not Saskatchewan winters, the town workers also had to decide if the ice was playable. If the ice was slushy, the lights would stay off.
But, of course, that didn't stop Boucher and his buddies, including his brother-in-law.
"Oh yeah, plenty of times," Boucher said when asked if he ever played when it wasn't advised. "And, I would go in the corner and sometimes the puck would fall into the water along the boards. That was more in late February or around then.
"In the afternoon on weekends, if it was 40-someide degrees and there were a lot of people on it the ice would get slushy and it wasn't as fun. But, in January you could go out there when it was really cold and skate forever."
That's when it was so great to be a kid.
"Not that hockey wasn't fun for me, because I always looked forward to going to the rink, but there was just something about playing outside that made you have endless energy," Boucher said. "If you were thirsty, you didn't feel it. It's the purest part of the game."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org