To those who are not hockey fans, Daniel Briere might not be a household name, but the NHL star who retired this week left a very profound and positive impact on downtown Springfield.
From 1997 to 2001, Briere played for the Springfield Falcons, a franchise formed after the Indians left and moved to Worcester in 1994. Briere was a fan favorite from the moment he arrived; at 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds, he was one of the smallest players on the ice but a skating sensation with a gifted scoring touch that netted 88 goals in 169 Falcons games.
This week, the 37-year-old Briere retired after an NHL career that saw him score 307 goals with 389 assists. His size probably delayed his ascent to the big leagues, which was unfair, but it was a blessing to a new AHL franchise in Springfield.
The all-time attendance records for Springfield were not set at the Eastern States Coliseum as is commonly assumed, but at the MassMutual Center in the late 1990s. Marketing and promotion are always crucial factors, but so was Briere’s electrifying presence on the ice and the ease in which fans related to him.
“It’s not easy to market individual players at the minor league level, but Daniel was the best we had,” Falcons director of hockey operations Bruce Landon said. “Our experience is that Springfield fans especially relate to three types of player – goaltenders, fighters and little guys.”
Briere was, and is, a little guy with a big heart. Years after he left Springfield for the NHL, the Republican received a letter with a Quebec postmark from his wife, saying how much both husband and wife appreciated the city and the support he received.
Did the Falcons survive solely on the appeal of watching Briere play? No, that’s a stretch, but to say he was a critical element in those early years – and the single best hockey-related reason – is spot-on.
It was a tribute to his popularity that Springfield fans were not selfishly pleased to see Briere kept in town and held back from the NHL because of his size. They knew he deserved a promotion and eventually, he was rewarded with a 973-game NHL career with Phoenix, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Montreal and Colorado.
Now that he is retired, it would be outstanding for the Falcons to invite him back someday to reconnect with his fans. In their hearts, Briere never really left, and his impact on our hockey team and its viability in Springfield is a legacy that should not be forgotten.
Story Courtesy of Masslive. By