PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 01: Danny Briere #48 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates the puck against Patrik Elias #26 of the New Jersey Devils in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 1, 2012 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
“The Flyers family is a bond that is really strong, stronger than any other organization in hockey,” Briere said. “I believe it started with Mr. Snider. He created that and wanted that for his players. He told me many times, ‘Once you are a Flyer, you are always a Flyer because that never leaves you.’ That is pretty cool to hear, and Comcast Spectacor now is going in that same direction. They want to keep that same vibe about the Flyers and their players.”
Ed Snider’s name is synonymous with the Philadelphia Flyers. He passed away in 2016, but he was very much involved as owner of the team when the organization landed Briere as a free agent in the summer of 2007. Briere played six seasons wearing the orange and black, scoring 124 goals while totaling 283 points, and twice being named to the All-Star game during his Flyers stint.
“I was 29 years old when I signed with the Flyers,” Briere said. “I was a late bloomer compared to most of the guys. Guys usually have their best years when they are 25 years old to 26 in hockey. I had my best years between 28 and 33 years old. A lot of guys are physically ready to play professional hockey when they are 19 years old. But when I was that age, I wasn’t physically developed enough to compete with men yet. I needed a couple of extra years. I was 22 or 23 years old when I finally turned the corner and could match-up physically with the pro players.”
Briere’s personal journey was not one of instant NHL success. He had to persevere and be patient at the same time. After being drafted in 1996 by Phoenix 24th overall, Briere spent his first four pro seasons shuffling back and forth between the NHL and the Coyotes AHL affiliate. It was frustrating at times, but that experience prepared him well for the job he has currently been asked to do.
Last summer, Comcast Spectacor, owner of the Flyers, purchased the rights to the dormant Alaska Aces of the ECHL and moved them to Portland, Maine. While the team is an affiliate of the New York Rangers, Flyers President Paul Holmgren is the team’s governor, and Holmgren hired Briere to be his vice president of operations.
The Mariners inaugural season begins October 13, 2018. The roster is shaping up with 17 players under contract. And the team will call Cross Insurance Arena its home, a rink renovated two and a half years ago and managed by Spectra.
“I will spend a lot of time up there,” Briere said. “It is mostly a weekend league so I will try to deal with a lot of the work from here, and then I am going to try and catch as many games as I can in Portland.”
This job is a do-everything position. Briere has been shadowing Holmgren learning the business side of hockey the past couple of years. Now along with Mariners head coach Riley Armstrong, Briere will make hockey decisions too. He intends to learn as much as possible at the minor league level with hopes of having options in the future.
“I am just trying to take it all in,” Briere said, knowing a decision to follow the business side versus the hockey side is likely coming. “I love that this job has taken me out of my comfort zone. It is forcing me to learn and listen to people around me. I love that part, but hockey is my passion. I still love the game; I love watching the game, so right now I am enjoying being in the middle of all of it and having to touch all of it.
“Hopefully I won’t have to make that decision one way or the other. Usually, the stars align and you know when it’s time to make a decision. It is similar to me knowing when it was time for me to retire. I have a feeling it is going to be the same with this.”
Looking back on the summer of 2007 when Briere was a highly sought after free agent, his final decision came down to joining his hometown team, the Canadiens, or the Flyers. He had no idea how far reaching that decision would become.