Danny Briere Continues to Inspire Philadelphia Flyers with New Lease on Life
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He's been plagued by injuries and has faced adversity off the ice but has always shown the determination to bounce back.
When the city of 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 who are active in their communities and charitable causes, Daniel 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. When Daniel arrived, he was coming off a career year with Buffalo where he racked up 68 assists and 32 goals as he finished 10th in the league with 95 points.
Philadelphia had suffered their worst season in franchise history when Briere joined, as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94 and set the NHL record for largest points drop-off between seasons at 45. 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 general manager Paul Holmgren had taken over from the legendary Bobby Clarke early in the 2006-07 season and was eager to fix the team by adding the skill and creativity Philadelphia clearly lacked. Holmgren singled 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 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, Daniel 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 to the playoffs. Although Philadelphia lost out to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, Briere tallied an impressive 16 points in 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 put up four points during the six-game series.
Last season, Daniel 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 Final. Along the way, he contributed many moments of inspiration and 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 Daniel and his family, as he and his son Cameron were involved in a serious car accident. His 2010 Range Rover clipped a tractor-trailer before hitting a guardrail 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 alive: "My son didn't have a scratch on him, which is unbelievable. 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. I can focus on hockey and basically my job, which is a good feeling," Briere stated.
His enthusiasm is rubbing off on his teammates, and linemates Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino will benefit from having a relaxed Briere alongside them. Danny's been off to a hot start nine games into the new season, having scored six goals and totaled 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 Danny and allow him to match his playoff feats with a tremendous regular season for the Flyers. Hockey fans everywhere would be glad to see Briere have a strong comeback year.
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