Daniel Briere plays his home games at Bell Centre in Montreal, but his return to Philadelphia on Thursday will be a real trip home.
Briere will face the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center for the first time since signing with the Montreal Canadiens in July. And though he's looking forward to seeing friends and former teammates, there are three people he's looking forward to seeing the most -- his three sons.
"It's mostly why I'm looking forward to it," Briere told NHL.com. "I get to see some friends. I get to come home for a couple days, which is nice. But there's no doubt that seeing the kids is the priority."
In June, the Flyers used a compliance buyout to terminate the final two seasons of the eight-year, $52 million contract Briere had signed in the summer of 2007. He signed with the Canadiens in July, but his sons remained in southern New Jersey, where they live with their mother.
Because of school and extracurricular activities, Briere said he hasn't been able to spend much time with his sons, 15-year-old Caelan, 14-year-old Carson and 12-year-old Cameron.
"That's the tough part," Briere said. "The young one, Cameron, has been able to come down twice. The older two because they're in high school, you don't want to miss too much school and they play hockey for their school teams, so there hasn't been a lot of chances. They came down the previous weekend for Thanksgiving and that was the first time that they had made it here, so it was about two-and-a-half months without seeing them."
Briere has had help in adjusting to time away from his kids. His father and other friends and family are constants around games and practices, and have provided some comfort.
"There's lots of friends and family," he said. "That's a part that people don't realize when people are traded or they sign elsewhere and they have to go without their family, it's tough. You have a lot of down time, a lot of alone time, and that's never easy. So in that sense it's been very helpful having a lot of people around to keep me busy, take me out for lunch, take me out to dinner."
Dec. 12 was a day Briere said he circled on the calendar not long after signing with the Canadiens. Although he said it hasn't been something he's spent a lot of time thinking about, now that it's come he said he's looking forward to it.
"It's not something I've constantly thought about," Briere said. "I'm looking forward to it mostly to see friends, to see ex-teammates, to see the family. Not so much about the game as having a chance to see all those people that have been around there in my life for so many years."
Briere left a strong impression in six seasons in Philadelphia. He had 234 points in 298 regular-season games, and 17 goals and 29 points in 28 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He helped the Flyers reach the Eastern Conference Final twice, including in 2007-08, his first season. And he played a major role in the team's run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
That postseason run started with a final-day shootout victory against the New York Rangers to get into the postseason, and in the second round saw the Flyers become the third team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0. Briere led all playoff scorers with 30 points, and his 12 points against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final were one shy of tying Wayne Gretzky's League record.
"The run to the Stanley Cup Final," Briere said of his favorite Philadelphia memory. "It was so unexpected. It was so much fun. Coming back from 3-0 was something that we'll remember forever. Making the playoffs in the last regular-season game, everything. It was just an amazing time."
Briere is making new memories now with the Canadiens, the team he grew up rooting for. He signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Canadiens on July 4.
"It's been really cool," he said. "Growing up being a Montreal Canadiens fan I was looking forward to playing for them. It's been really cool, and the fact that we're having a good season and everybody's happy makes it more special. In that sense it's been great and it's been a lot of fun to be part of that."
After a slow start, Briere is starting to feel more comfortable. He missed nearly a month after sustaining a concussion in a collision with the Nashville Predators' Eric Nystrom on Oct. 19. In 13 games since his return he has four goals and three assists, and the Canadiens are 10-1-2 in that span.
"I had a rough start," Briere said. "It was a slow start, but not necessarily much different than it's been in my career. I've always been a slow starter; October hasn't usually been my best month. But usually I play better as the season goes on. I'm a player that plays a lot on instincts and the more games under my belt it seems I feel better and better.
"Coming onto a new team it's always challenging, you're trying to fit in, find a spot where you can help out and that hasn't been easy, not having a defined role. But as far as my game goes I think I feel better and better. I've been playing a lot better in the last probably three weeks."
He'll hope that strong play keeps going Thursday against the Flyers.
"It's definitely going to be a little weird walking from the visitors' side of it," Briere said. "It's been home for so long. It's going to be a little awkward being on the other side [but] I'm looking forward to it."