Thank You Danny Briere!

A career to celebrate.  Photo from sportsnet.com

A career to celebrate. Photo from sportsnet.com

I remember when the Sabres traded Chris Gratton and some draft picks for a much smaller and lesser known player — to myself at least — named Daniel Briere. I remember thinking: why are they trading for such a small player when the NHL is all about size! We should be looking to get bigger! What I didn’t know is that the NHL was about to change the rules, which ended up favoring smaller, faster and more skilled players like Briere, and the City of Buffalo was about see some “scary good” hockey for the next three years.

Bringing home the gold.  Photo from yahoo.com

Bringing home the gold. Photo from yahoo.com

Briere instantly struck me as a great player. You could see it when he looked to pass the puck. His vision was amazing. He could dance around behind the net with the puck until someone crashed the net and then somehow feed the puck to them perfectly through all kinds of traffic. The Sabres had smaller players before who performed well – Mike Peca, for example – but Briere was different. He had a similar attitude to Peca in that he wouldn’t let guys push him around, but Briere was sneaky about showing it. He’d always get his shot in when the other guy would least expect it. I loved watching him and Chara battling in front and behind the net. It was comical at times, almost like watching Looney Toons on Saturday morning. Briere was like Bugs Bunny and Chara was Elmer Fudd, looking like a bumbling buffoon trying to capture the rabbit. No matter how many times Chara cross-checked or elbowed him, Briere would hang in there and make a play. He always made them pay on the score board — sometimes by getting in the penalty box too!

I remember feeling drawn to Briere as a captain. He just had this calm confidence about him. The type of leadership you’ll follow to the depths of hell because you know he’s bringing you back. He and Drury were perfect co-captains as each one had great but different leadership traits. Drury was the more reserved one and led by doing. Briere was the more vocal and outspoken of the two but still very professional, and he also wowed on the ice. When Briere was on the ice, I always felt the Sabres had a chance to win. It was like the Jim Kelly days; there was no deficit they couldn’t overcome. They could be down 6 to 0 in the third, and I would just be waiting until Briere’s line exploded.

There was no better hockey in the city of Buffalo than the Ottawa playoff series from 2005-2007. Every year seemed to top

the last. Game one of the 2006 playoff series will live in infamy. The game was back and forth and exciting the entire game. I was on the edge of my seat. We were coming off a 7-1 thrashing of the Flyers, and the Senators were the best team in the east that year. The Senators appeared to have the game wrapped up, but Briere made a nice play getting the puck to Tim Connolly who scored with 10 seconds left. Drury hit the game winner just 18 seconds into the overtime period, giving the Sabres a 7-6 victory. The entire series was back and forth with every other game going to overtime. It was better than any Stanley Cup to me. Nothing can ever compare to that series.

2007 was the apex for the Sabres. The team won the Presidents Trophy, and every game seemed to be a complete blow out.

All star game, 2007.  Photo from AP

All star game, 2007. Photo from AP

Fans seemed to be surprised if the Sabres didn’t tally four goals or more. Every other game Briere seemed to be pulling some kind of heroics. Briere had 32 goals with 63 assists for 95 points that year — all career highs. To me it seemed Briere had 100 goals and 100 assists; he was just constantly on the stat sheet. I would rush home to watch every single game from 2005 to 2007. I had never been that dedicated to hockey, but they put on such a show that I had to watch. Two hundred and forty-six regular season games I watched over that span and another 50 or so playoff games. That’s like 700 hours of hockey, but I knew I was watching something special and couldn’t get enough. It’s a shame the owner at the time was so cheap. Imagine if the Pegulas were the owners. Briere would have statues in his honor, and we may have lifted the cup several times.

When Briere left, I was heartbroken. I loved him as a player and as a member of the community. Sabres hockey hasn’t been the same and may never be. There hasn’t been the leadership in the locker room since. Perhaps Briere and Drury set the bar too high and we expect too much. I don’t think those teams can ever be duplicated. I’ll remember that amazing hockey for the rest of my life and am thankful as a sports fan even though we didn’t win a cup. I want to say thank you to Briere for the memories he gave me and every Sabres fan around the world. He helped electrify a fan base. He gave us all hope and something to believe in. He put Buffalo on the map of relevance. The mood around the city was just one of joy and excitement from October to May. I had always hoped he would one day come back, but I’m glad now he didn’t. I think expectations would have been too high and may have damaged his legacy. I would have loved nothing more than for Briere to wear the true Blue and Gold uniform, but it wasn’t meant to be. Congratulations on a great career, Daniel, and thank you so much for everything you’ve done on and off the ice for the fans and the City of Buffalo.

Good bye, and good luck, Danny.  Photo from yahoo.com

Good bye, and good luck, Danny. Photo from yahoo.com

Update: Briere’s career will be celebrated in Philadelphia on October 27th before the Flyers and Sabres face off.

By: Jason Sins

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