Danny Briere’s no. 48 will never hang from the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center. Years from now, a new generation of fans may understand what Briere meant to the Flyers, but they will never be able to fathom what his six years meant to this fan base.
Briere came to Philadelphia after the Flyers had finished one of the worst seasons in team history. The Flyers won 22 games during the 2006-07 season. 22 games.
Briere was coming off a 95-point season and was one of the prized free agents of the 2006 crop. General managers lined up to court Briere. It looked as if the Montreal Canadiens were the front runners, but Briere was coaxed by Marty Biron, his former teammate in Buffalo, to sign with the Flyers.
Danny Briere had a different aura than other free agents the Flyers had signed. He defined the role of the underdog. Critics said he was too small to make it in the NHL. It is as if every time he would score, he would pump his fist and tell his doubters, “Take that!”
Briere’s production dipped in his first season with the Flyers. He ranked second on the team with 72 points – 31 goals , 41 assists, but, as always, he would show up for the playoffs. The Flyers made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final and lost in five games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Danny Briere continues to be Mr. Playoffs. There is something about the postseason that makes Briere kick his game into another gear. During the 2010 Stanley Cup run, fans witnessed Briere’s greatest work. In 23 games, he scored a team-record 30 points in 23 games. In 68 playoff games with the Flyers, Briere scored 72 points.
Briere’s on-ice achievements could take up an entire post, but that is not why Briere is so beloved in Philadelphia. Briere’s class off the ice is what endeared him to so many fans.
He would take in the young players – most notably Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux – when they were just getting into the league. He would never turn away a fan and was always joyous with them. I had the opportunity to meet Briere at the Flyers Wives Carnival. My dad and I were assigned to work the photo booths at the event.
We made our way to the corner boards, right next to the band, and waited for Briere to arrive. Briere emerged from behind a black curtain, saw the photo crew. He walked up to us, stuck out his hand and said, “Hi I’m Danny.” He spoke to us as if we had been friends for the last few years. That day, I got to see Briere in action with the fans.
What stood out the most was how endearing he was to the younger fans. Every child left the booth with a big smile on their face.
Briere’s off-ice stories could take several posts to tell, but one of the best stories is about a little girl named Kaylin. Our fellow bloggers, The Orange and Black Pack, arranged for this little girl to meet her hero. It is a story that crosses boundaries between the game and the fans. You can read the story here.
To say thank you to Danny Briere is to sell our gratitude short. Danny said yes to the Flyers after the team had lost 60 games the previous season. He could have gone to Montreal or re-signed with Buffalo, but he chose Philadelphia. Thank you is not enough but it will have to do. Thank you, Danny Briere. Forever a Philadelphia Flyer.