Daniel Brière (born October 6, 1977) is a Canadian professional ice hockey centre who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League (NHL). He has previously played with the Phoenix Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres. Internationally, Brière has won four gold medals in as many appearances with Team Canada at the 1994 World U18 Championships, 1997 World Junior Championships, and the 2003 and 2004 World Championships.
In his rookie season, he recorded 123 points, third overall in the league, was awarded the Michel Bergeron Trophy as league rookie of the year, and the Marcel Robert Trophy as scholastic player of the year. The following season, he improved to 163 points, earning the Jean Béliveau Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. He was also named the QMJHL Humanitarian of the Year and awarded the Ford Cup as offensive player of the year. Despite a remarkable 6-game, 18-point post-season effort from Brière, Drummondville was not able to advance from the divisional round-robin.
After Brière was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round, 24th overall, in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, he returned to Drumondville for one more season. He recorded 130 points, finishing in the top three in league scoring for the third consecutive season, and was awarded the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player.
Graduating from major junior, Brière split his first four seasons in the NHL between the Coyotes and their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. In his first professional season, he recorded 92 points in 68 games and was awarded the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as top rookie.
Brière’s training regimen became newsworthy in 2001 when it became known that, in order to overcome his diminutive size (at 5 ft. 10 in., he is comparably small by NHL standards), he had begun off-season strength training with Canadian World’s Strongest Man competitor Hugo Girard,who shares Gatineau as a hometown. He earned a consistent NHL roster spot in the second half of the 2000–01 season and spent his first full season with the Coyotes in 2001–02, recording 60 points.
At the 2002–03 trade deadline, the Coyotes traded Brière to the Buffalo Sabres where he would eventually become team captain in exchange for Chris Gratton. Two draft picks were also exchanged in the trade. Brière continued to improve with the Sabres. After playing with SC Bern of the Swiss Nationaliiga A during the 2004–05 NHL lockout, he emerged as an NHL star, beginning with a 58-point season in just 48 games during the 2005–06 campaign. Brière was kept out of the lineup for 32 games due to an abdominal injury suffered in January that required surgery and a 2-game suspension following an inadvertent high-stick to Boston Bruins defenceman Brian Leetch. Completing the season with the Sabres healthy, Brière helped lead the club to their first post-season berth in four years. Playing on a rejuvenated team that included stars Chris Drury, Thomas Vanek and Brian Campbell, the Sabres advanced to the semi-finals, paced by Brière’s team-high 19 points. In the off-season, Brière filed for salary arbitration, which resulted in a one-year, $5 million contract that the Sabres agreed to on August 5, 2006.
The following season Brière scored two hat tricks. His first on December 5, 2006, against the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s goaltender Marc Denis. His second came shortly after, on January 30, 2007, in front of a home crowd at HSBC Arena in a 7-1 victory against the Boston Bruins, with two goals against Hannu Toivonen and one against his replacement Tim Thomas. He was voted in as a starter to his first NHL All-Star Game in Dallas, Texas, and recorded a game-high five points (one goal, four assists). He was named All-Star Game MVP and received a Dodge Nitro that he ended up giving to his sister. Brière finished the season with a career-high 32 goals, 63 assists and 95 points. He added 15 points in the post-season as the Sabres made their second straight appearance in the conference-finals, but were eliminated by the Ottawa Senators.
As Brière’s one-year contract expired at the end of 2006–07, he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2007. It was widely speculated that Brière would return to his home province and play for the Montreal Canadiens, but he instead signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, who finished the previous season as the worst team in the NHL, to an eight-year, $52 million contract with a no-trade clause. The Flyers front-loaded the deal, paying Brière $10 million in the first season of the contract, making him the highest paid player of the league in 2007–08, along with Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers and former Sabres teammate Thomas Vanek. His decision to join the Flyers is often attributed to the influence of his friend Martin Biron, who was traded from Buffalo to Philadelphia at the previous season’s trade deadline. He later cited the prospect of anonymity in Philadelphia as opposed to Montreal as an additional factor in his decision.
Brière’s production dipped in his first season with the Flyers in 2007–08, but he still finished second in team scoring with 72 points in 79 games, behind eventual team captain Mike Richards. He scored his third career hat trick near the beginning of the season on November 21, 2007, against the Carolina Hurricanes‘s goaltender Cam Ward. Led by Brière and Richards on the newly revamped Flyers (additional off-season acquisitions included Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul), Philadelphia went from worst team in the NHL the previous season to an appearance in the 2008 conference-finals against eventual Eastern Conference champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brière recorded 9 goals and 7 assists in his third straight semi-finals appearance.
Less than a month into the 2008–09 season, on October 22, Brière suffered another abdominal tear requiring surgery. He was expected to be sidelined at least a month, but returned within half that time on November 8 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the next game against the New York Islanders on November 11, he suffered a groin pull, sidelining him for nine games. In his first game back, Brière suffered yet another setback, re-injured his groin on December 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Preparing to make a return to the Flyers lineup, he was assigned to the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL on January 13, 2009, to play three games on a conditioning basis. Brière finished the season having played in just 29 games for the Flyers, recording 11 goals and 14 assists. The Flyers were eliminated for the second consecutive year in the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Brière scored one goal along with three assists in the series.
The following season, Brière was suspended by the NHL for two games for leaving his feet to check Colorado Avalanche defenceman Scott Hannan, making contact with Hannan’s neck with his elbow during a game on November 23, 2009. He also suffered a tweaked groin during that season and missed 5 games because of it. However, a highlight came to Briere in a game in Montreal where he scored a hat trick with all goals in different situations, Power-play, even strength and penalty shot.
|Competitor for Canada|
|Gold||2004 Czech Republic|
|World Junior Championships|
|World U18 Championships|
Brière made two appearances for Team Canada as a junior. In his first, at the 1994 World U18 Championships in Mexico City, he scored 5 points and earned his first gold medal as Canada defeated the United States 5–2 in the final. Three years later, during his final year of major junior in the QMJHL, he competed for Team Canada at the 1997 World Junior Championships in Switzerland. Brière scored 6 points in 7 games and captured his second gold medal, defeating the United States once more 2–0.
He debuted at the senior level with Team Canada at the 2003 World Championships and scored 9 points in 9 games. He earned another gold medal, defeating the United States in the final for the third time in his career. The next year, at the 2004 World Championships, Brière earned his fourth gold medal in as many international appearances, topping Sweden 5–3 in the final. He tallied 8 points, to finish ninth in tournament scoring.
- Awarded the Michel Bergeron Trophy (rookie of the year) in 1995.
- Awarded the Marcel Robert Trophy (scholastic player of the year) in 1995.
- Named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team in 1995.
- Awarded the Jean Beliveau Trophy (leading scorer) in 1996.
- Named the QMJHL Humanitarian of the Year in 1996.
- Awarded Ford Cup (offensive player of the year) in 1996.
- Named to the QMJHL Second All-Star Team in 1996 and 1997.
- Awarded the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy (most sportsmanlike player) in 1997.
Growing up, Brière attended Collège Saint-Alexandre, a private high school in Gatineau. He presently has three sons – Caelan, Carson and Cameron – with ex-wife Sylvie and has been a resident of Haddonfield, New Jersey.