Being a two-way player between the Phoenix Coyotes and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, was not what Briere had in mind as ideal situation. His career outlook was so bleak, he could never have dreamed of being selected an NHL All-Star.
On Tuesday night, Briere became just that, as he was named as one of three Sabres to start the 2007 NHL All-Star Game in Dallas, TX on January 24 (Versus, 8 p.m.). Briere joins defenseman Brian Campbell and goaltender Ryan Miller
on the Eastern Conference's top unit.
"I've watched a lot of All-Star Games," said Briere. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish to get the chance to go at least once.
"Did I really believe that five years ago? Probably not."
After a stellar junior career with Dummondville, where he led his team in scoring for three seasons, Briere became a coveted first-round selection (26th overall) by the Coyotes in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
Buffalo's little engine that could then went on quite a scoring run to open his career, lighting the lamp just three times in his first 36 games over three seasons. The lack of production landed Briere on the waiver wire in 2001. Any general manager could have claimed him for nothing, but each passed on the opportunity.
"Not one team wanted me on their team," said Briere. "I think that's why I appreciate this so much."
"I never considered giving up hockey. I thought about going to Europe. I always wondered if the European game was better suited for me and if it would be a better move than being an up-and-down guy for about four years."
Close family and friends convinced Briere to remain in the NHL. The decision paid off as he was acquired by Buffalo along with a third-round pick from Phoenix on March 10, 2003, in one of the greatest trades in franchise history, in exchanged for Chris Gratton and a fourth-round choice.
Briere has since piled up 184 (76+108) points in 186 games with the Sabres.
Add the NHL's rule changes following the lockout, and the small, skilled forward became an offensive juggernaut. His 49 points (16+33) in 42 games leads all Buffalo scorers this season.
"The two biggest things to happen to me was being waived and then traded to Buffalo," said Briere.
"What [the All-Star selections] says to me, is that with the coach, three starters and probably more being announced on Saturday, this is not something that you've done by yourself. Our team isn't just about one person."