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Briere feels time is right to retire, commit to family

by Dan Rosen

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Daniel Briere made his decision to retire from the NHL for two reasons: realism and selflessness.

After 17 seasons in the NHL, Briere couldn't convince himself to train this summer and get his mind and body ready for another season, just so he might be able to sign with a team willing to give him a minor role such as the one he had last season as a minimally used forward with the Colorado Avalanche.

"That's about all I was going to get, and I'm realistic with that," Briere said Tuesday during his retirement press conference at the Virtua Flyers Skate Zone, the practice facility for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Briere similarly couldn't convince himself to spend a third consecutive season away from his three teenage boys just so he could continue playing the game he loves while disregarding his duties at home as a father to Caelan, Carson and Cameron.


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"The boys are all in high school. They don't have lot of time left at home, and I don't want to miss any more time with them," Briere said.

Even still, Briere struggled with his decision for the better part of the offseason. He took his time and said he went back and forth quite often before finally settling on his decision to retire a few weeks ago. He announced it publicly Monday in a bylined story in Le Droit, a French newspaper in his hometown of Gatineau, Quebec.

Briere leaves the NHL at the age of 37 and 27 games shy of reaching 1,000 games played. He scored 307 goals and had 696 points in 973 games with the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Flyers, Montreal Canadiens and Avalanche. Briere also scored 116 points in 124 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He is known for being one of the most clutch playoff performers in recent years, but he never won the Stanley Cup.

"I still love the game and I wish I was still playing, [but] it wasn't just about myself and about playing," Briere said. "There's no doubt in my mind. I'm very comfortable with the decision. I feel like it's time and I'm making the right decision."

Briere's reality as a retired player gave him a chance Tuesday to reflect back to what got him to the NHL and discuss what he did to stay in it as a full-time player for the past 13 seasons.

He recalled the time as a junior player with Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League when he kept newspaper clippings of stories that featured NHL executives, experts and former players talking about how he was too small (5-foot-9, 174 pounds) and fragile to have a future in the NHL in a box next to his bed.

"Any time things would get tough a little bit I would open [the box] and read," Briere said. "That was my motivation at the time, to prove them wrong."

Briere remembered how he learned the hard way in his early years as a professional that staying in the NHL wasn't easy. He played 64 games with the Coyotes during the 1998-99 season, but 43 games in the next two seasons, spending the majority of his time in the American Hockey League.

"We all hear the saying that it's one thing to get to the NHL, it's another thing to stay," Briere said. "I tasted the NHL early on in my career, and it was taken away from me. It took me three years of ups and downs before I was able to get back up for good. There was a lot of tough times, tough moments; clearing waivers, when nobody picked me up. I fought and never quit, and kept working hard to achieve my dream."

Briere stuck in the NHL for good starting with the 2001-02 season, when he scored 32 goals and had 60 points in 78 games with the Coyotes. He scored a career-high 95 points in 81 games with the Sabres in 2006-07, after which he signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Flyers, who finished last in the NHL in 2006-07.

Briere helped the Flyers reach the Eastern Conference Final in his first season and the Stanley Cup Final in his third, when he had 30 points in 23 playoff games. He had 72 points in 68 playoff games with the Flyers.

"Thinking back, [Scott] Gomez was an option, [Chris] Drury was an option, but the guy we spent most of our time on was Danny," said Flyers president Paul Holmgren, who was the general manager at the time Briere signed with Philadelphia. "I remember when he came in a few days later he sat in my office and he thanked me, and I think I said, 'No, thank you.' The year before was a tough year for the Flyers, and I think signing Danny that day back in 2007 kind of turned things around for us."

It changed Briere's life too.

The Philadelphia area, particularly Haddonfield, N.J., became home for Briere, whose fiancé, Misha, is from nearby Harleysville, Pa. His kids go to St. Augustine Prep School in Richland, N.J. Caelan and Carson are hockey players. Cameron plays lacrosse.

Briere held his press conference in Voorhees, sitting in front of a Flyers backdrop, because of the close ties he has kept to the area and the Flyers despite the fact that they bought out the final two years of his contract in the summer of 2013.

As part of the terms of the buyout, the Flyers will pay Briere $833,333 in each of the next two seasons, according to Briere said he hopes to have a future in the organization and he will soon discuss a potential role with Holmgren that can be worked around the time he wants to spend with his kids.

"The priority is going to be the family first," Briere said. "I can't commit to anything on weekends. They're all taken with their games and stuff. During the week, a lot of nights it's practice. I want to get involved with that as well. I'm limiting myself a lot in what I can do, especially for the first year, year and a half. That also will give me time to figure out and talk to people, talk to Paul and kind of discuss different avenues we can attack in the future."


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