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On a day the NHL debuted at one of America's historic ballparks, a couple of its former stars reminisced about their introduction to the game on the frozen waters in Canada.

Standing among the 38,112 fans at Boston's Fenway Park on New Year's Day, one-time Bruins defenceman Bobby Orr spoke to Hockey Night in Canada 's Elliotte Friedman about playing hockey on the river in Parry Sound, Ont.

"You'd leave home in the morning and your parents would say, 'Be home before dark,' and we'd come home if we were cold or hungry," said Orr, who skated to centre ice before Friday's game with Clarke as honorary captains. "That's how we learned to play the game.

"We had lots of fun, just our friends. We might go to the school rink or any place that we could put a puck down or any [surface] that was cleaned off, we would play."

Orr is no stranger to Fenway, home of Major League Baseball's Red Sox. He regularly attends games and last summer surprised Trail, B.C., native Jason Bay (now with the MLB's New York Mets) by slipping out a door of the 37-foot-high (11.2-metre) Green Monster to greet the unsuspecting left-fielder.

Orr, 61, was also in attendance for one-time Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk's walk-off, 12-inning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series that forced a deciding game.

"I remember Carlton going towards first base and waving the ball fair. I love this park," said Orr. "When the [NHL Winter] Classics started [eventually the league] had to come [to Boston]. Fenway is one of the great ballparks in the world."

Clarke agreed, as he gushed about Friday's showcase. The temperature at game time was 4 C and dropped only slightly lower by the game's end.

'Great spectacle'

The 60-year-old, who spent all 15 seasons as an NHL player with the Flyers and later had two stints as their general manager before resigning early in the 2006-07 season, received a standing ovation when he took the ice at Fenway Park.

"It was so special [considering] my age now, and I don't play anymore," Clarke told Friedman. "To come on the ice and be cheered in Boston, just to be part of this great spectacle …."

When talk of possible outdoor classic games first surfaced during Clarke's tenure as Flyers GM, he figured it would be a "one-and-done" deal, but "this is a special, spectacular event now."

It's a far cry from playing outdoors in Flin Flon, Man., where Clarke grew up.

"We played every day outdoors," he said. "Obviously, it wasn't on rinks like this. The ice would be all chipped up and the boards would be [short].

"It was colder than [today's forecast of about 2 C], but that's where everybody learned to play hockey."

The ice surface will remain at Fenway for some time as the men's hockey teams from Boston College and Boston University will tangle on Jan. 8 in their 248th meeting.

On the same day, a women's game will be contested between New Hampshire and Northeastern.