My favorite memory of Daniel Briere, the diminutive forward who announced his retirement from the NHL on Monday, didn’t take place on the ice.
It unfolded in a hallway of the players’ hotel at the 2011 All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C., well away from all the hubbub of the weekend. Briere was taking part in the All-Star Game for the second time in his career, and he had two of his kids there to share the experience. While a colleague and I talked with him, we gave his boys a couple of boxes of hockey cards to keep them entertained. Seemed like a good idea, but it backfired. Every time they found someone they knew from the Flyers, the team that Briere was playing for at the time, they’d run over and show their dad and he’d laugh. Then they’d run back and open some more until they found someone else. After a couple minutes of this, we realized we had to cut our talk short. He’d agreed to meet with us, but he clearly had something better to do with his time.
I thought of that today when Briere released a statement explaining his intention to step away from the game at age 37. “I’ve been very, very fortunate to have a chance to play with some great organizations, but at this point the family becomes a priority,” he said in the statement.
Briere spent last season with the Avalanche, and scored eight goals and 12 points in 57 games. Colorado was the fifth NHL stop for the 5' 9", 174-pound forward, who was drafted 24th by the Coyotes in 1996. A smart, creative playmaker and scorer, he started his NHL career by spending parts of six seasons in the desert, highlighted by a 32-goal season in 2001–02, but he really made his name with the Sabres. Briere was a huge part of the team’s success, leading Buffalo to back-to-back Eastern Conference finals appearances (in ’06 and ’07) with his clutch scoring. He scored 11 goals and 34 points in 34 playoff games in those two seasons, a run that helped establish him as one of the finest postseason players of his generation. He eventually skated in 124 career playoff games, scoring 53 goals, with 63 assists. His average of 0.94 points per postseason game was significantly higher than his regular season average of 0.72 (696 points in 973 games).
There’s no hint yet of what will come next for Briere, although he’ll almost certainly settle in the Philadelphia area. His sons live there with his ex-wife, and he's made no secret of his desire to stay close to them.
He’ll finally be able to give them his full attention now.