The thought of playing the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park on New Year's Day has conjured sweet memories for Flyers forward Danny Briere.

Back to when he was playing outdoors on a homemade, miniature rink that was lovingly built by his mom and dad.

Back to a more innocent time, when he was a youngster and would scrape the freshly fallen snow off the ice, making the outdoor hockey palace playable.

Back to when he and his friends would race home from school and play three-on-three - two forwards and a goalie on each side - on the surface his parents created behind their home in Gatineau, Quebec.

"My dad used to build a rink in our backyard, so that's the memories it brings back," Briere, 32, said the other day. "I remember playing when the snow was coming down. I remember coming home after school and not wanting to do my homework. I just wanted to go out and play with my friends. And after [playing], they wanted to come in to eat; they wanted to come in to sleep."

He laughed.

"That's what I think about when I think we're going to be playing outside."

In America, most people know how old they were when they first walked. Their parents have ingrained it in them.

In Canada, the first skate, not the first step, is memorialized.

"I was 26 months, at least that's what I was told," Briere said. "And I skated in our backyard rink from when I was 2 to 13. My parents used to build it from scratch every winter."

Playing on ponds is how most NHL players spent their youth.

"We have longer winters in Canada, and the ice won't melt for a while; it'll stay there for almost three months, so those were good times," Briere said.

His parents, Robert and Constance, joyfully constructed the backyard rink each winter.

"They would make sure everything was even. Tap the snow so it was compact, and every few hours, go out with the hose and make it all even," Briere recalled. "The first two or three days, you're out there every couple of hours. When I was older, I'd help a little, but they did all the work, really. My dad would hose it down late at night when we went to bed, and then he'd do it early in the morning before he went to work. My mom would hose it down a couple hours before we came home from school, so when we came home, the ice was all shiny and ready to go."

His father, a former junior player, worked as an insurance broker in the day and refereed minor-league hockey games at night.

"I'd get home from refereeing around midnight, and I'd take out the hose and flood it until about 1," Robert Briere said Tuesday from the same home where his son grew up. "It was fun to do it because we knew Danny loved hockey. When he was 2, the rink was smaller, about 12 by 20 feet, and when he got older, it was maybe 16 by 40."

Briere's parents will be at the Winter Classic matchup on Jan. 1. The game might remind them of how they used to watch the snow pile atop the one-foot boards they placed on their homemade rink, creating walls around the playing surface.

"It's going to bring back a lot for me," Danny Briere said. "Back to when you were just thinking about nothing else but going out there and having fun."