Since his arrival in the summer of 2007, Danny Briere has been an inspirational presence for the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s been plagued by injuries and has faced adversity off the ice, but has always shown the determination to bounce back.
When Philadelphia was founded in the late 1600s, William Penn connected the two Greek words philos or “love” and adelphos “brother” when he named the city, gaining its iconic nickname: “The City of Brotherly Love.”
No one on the Flyers embodies the credo like Briere who has always been considered by teammates and fans to be one of the “good guys” in hockey. In a sport dominated by many kind athletes and who are active in their communities and charitable causes, Briere is seen as one of the most genuine stars in the NHL.
In his fourth year with the Flyers, Briere might now be able to put together his best season for the club since he left the Buffalo Sabres via free agency. Briere was coming off of a career year with Buffalo where he racked up 68 assists and 32 goals as he finished 10th in the league with 95 points.
The Flyers were coming off their worst season in franchise history when Briere arrived as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94 as their 45 point drop in 2006-07 (from 2005-06) set the NHL record for largest drop-off between seasons. A change of philosophy was needed as the Flyers had too many lumbering, slow skating veterans and were left in the dust as the league enforced new rules allowing creativity and flow.
Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren had taken over from the legendary Bobby Clarke early into the 2006-07 season and was eager fix the team by adding the skill and creativity Philadelphia clearly lacked. Holmgren signaled out Briere as the player who could revitalize his team as he watched him make Flyers’ defenders look foolish in their 2005-06 quarterfinal exit.
Briere put pen to paper on an eight-year, $52 million dollar contract on July 1, 2007 and the hockey-mad Flyers fans immediately pinned their hopes on their diminutive new star.
In his first season in Philly, Briere struggled at times and in usual fashion, the demanding city of Philadelphia rained boos upon an under-performing athlete. As the season went on, Briere became more acclimated to his new team as the Flyers returned in the playoffs. Although the Flyers lost to their rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals, Briere tallied an impressive 16 points 17 playoff appearances.
His second season with the Flyers was a “lost year” as he missed 53 games due to an abdominal tear and suffered through various groin injuries. When playoff time came around, Philly were again eliminated at the hands of the Penguins in the quarterfinals but Briere had put up four points during the six-game series.
Last season, Briere couldn’t produce his best and only put up 53 points in 75 games.
Off the ice, the distractions of his divorce weren’t helping his play. Still, Briere took his play up a notch in the playoffs and carried the Flyers on his back on a magical run to the 2010 Stanley Cup finals.
Along the way, he contributed many moments of inspiration and as he scored vital goals that brought Philadelphia back from the brink of elimination. The Flyers eventually bowed out to the champion Chicago Blackhawks but Briere was the strongest playoff performer as he notched a league-best 30 points and set Philadelphia’s all-time record for points in a single playoffs.
Unfortunately, more adversity was around the corner for the Briere family as he and his son, Cameron were involved in a serious car accident. His 2010 Range Rover had clipped a tractor trailer before hitting a guard rail while traveling near Binghamton, New York. The photos that surfaced afterward showed how lucky he and his son were to escape the accident relatively unharmed.
Briere told Flyers reporters how thankful he was that he and nine year-old Cameron were to be alive.
“My son didn’t have a scratch on him, which is unbelievable,” he said. “There was definitely someone watching over us that night.”
Those who cover the Flyers on a daily basis have described Briere as more carefree and joyful. The experience has left him with an even greater appreciation for life and the privilege of playing professional hockey.
“I feel great. A lot of the problems that I’ve had the past couple of years are behind me now,” Briere stated. “I can focus on hockey and basically my job, which is a good feeling.”
His enthusiasm is rubbing off on his teammates and line-mates Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino will benefit from having a relaxed Briere alongside them. Briere is off to a hot in the Flyers’ first nine games this year, having scored six goals and totaling eight points.
Since arriving in “The City of Brotherly Love,” Briere has always been a positive influence in the locker room and a “brother” to his teammates. It would be a wonderful story if the “hockey gods” can smile upon Briere and allow him to match his playoff feats with a tremendous regular season for the Flyers.
Hockey fans everywhere would be glad to Briere have a strong comeback year.