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October 28, 2015

Briere reflects on Flyers career on night of retirement ceremony

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This offseason, three of the key veterans from the 2010 Flyers team that fell just short of winning the Stanley Cup -- Kimmo Timonen, Danny Briere and Simon Gagne -- announced their retirements. Timonen, who retired after winning a Cup with the Blackhawks last season, was honored earlier this month when Chicago was in town. Gagne's night will come on Nov. 17 against the Kings, the team he won with in 2012. 

On Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres, however, it was Briere's night. 

Briere, who only spent six of his 17 seasons in Philadelphia, made his presence known in a big way, seemingly always coming through when the team needed him most. His 146 points as Flyer don’t come close to the 283 he posted in five-plus seasons in Phoenix — where he was drafted — or the 230 he posted in his three-plus seasons in Buffalo — where he made his first All-Star Game. But no one in this city, the one he now calls home, would think of him as anything but a Flyer.

Not just because he's working for the Flyers and learning the business side of the organization, but also because of what the 38-year-old Quebec native meant to this team during his time in Philly, especially in the playoffs, which he made in each of his six seasons in orange and black. 

“From Day One when I stepped off the plane, I felt at home here," Briere said of why he's decided make his home in the area after spending the last two seasons in Montreal and Colorado. "Obviously, my kids grew up here. They’re teenagers now, so whoever has kids will understand that you don’t move teenagers that easily. 

"But we just fell in love with the place, we feel at home, so many friends, and the way we have been treated by the whole city, this feels like home. That’s why.”

Always a fan favorite, it's no surprise Briere's felt at home here. The Flyers did a lot of winning during his time in Philadelphia and he was a big part of that success, with countless clutch goals, the kind the will forever endear you to a fan base that doesn't always love back. 

But perhaps no singular goal is as memorable as what he was able to accomplish during that 2010 run. In those 23 postseason games, Briere recorded 30 points (12 G, 18 A), breaking Brian Propp’s franchise record. Twelve of those 30 points came in the Stanley Cup Final alone, one shy of Wayne Gretzky’s record and the most since Mario Lemieux in 1992.

One of Briere’s signature moments that spring came against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semis, a series in which the Flyers found themselves down 3-0 heading into Game 4 in Philadelphia. After winning that game in overtime, the Flyers capped an improbable comeback in Game 7 in Boston.

After trailing 3-0 in Game 7, the Flyers fought back to tie it, 3-3, in the second period, thanks to a timely goal from Briere.

They would go on to win that game — and series — 4-3 on a Simon Gagne goal midway through the third period and would carry that momentum into their Eastern Conference finals series against the Canadiens, which they won, 4-1. 

“I would have to say [that's at the top of the my list of career highlights]," Briere said. "There were some good runs in Buffalo as well; there was an amazing run in Montreal to the conference final. But I have to say that two-month stretch, all the way to the Stanley Cup Final -- and coming back against Boston, being down 0-3 and coming all the way back to win that series -- was probably the biggest thrill.”

  • SECOND THOUGHTS ON RETIREMENT? 
  • “Not yet anyway," Briere said. "I said even when I played, I’m a huge fan of the game, and hockey is a passion for me. [Retirement] gives me more time and I love watching hockey games. I can sit there and just watch hockey, so it gives me more time to do that. More time with the kids, and with their hockey stuff as well. So it's the best. I haven’t had the itch to go back out. I feel it was time. I had my time. The game is getting faster; obviously, I’m getting older and slower. So it’s tougher to hang on. It was time for me to stop. I have no regrets.”

Unfortunately for Briere — and Flyers fans — that’s the closest he would get to hoisting the Cup, as the Flyers fell to the Blackhawks in the Finals.

But it's those kinds of memories -- and the teammates he shared them with -- that he's going to miss the most now that he's retired.

“I'll probably miss being around the guys," Briere said. "That’s what you hear. I know it’s a cliché that you hear the guys all say once they retire. But the friendship that you forge with the 25 guys that you travel the country with -- all of Canada and the U.S. -- I spent a lot of good times with these guys. We go out there protecting each other, so the bond is strong with your teammates and that’s probably the toughest part.”

His former teammates, several of whom had video messages to congratulate Briere on his retirement, will miss Briere as well. But if all the No. 48 jerseys in the crowd on Tuesday night are any indication, it may be the fans who will miss him most. 

"I loved how passionate this city got for the Flyers, especially in the spring when it was playoff time," Briere said. "That run in 2010, going all the way, the city was going to the beat of our team, and that was a special time...

"It’s pretty cool to find out that the fans love you still.”


Here's the video tribute to Briere that the Flyers played before the game:


Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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