Daniel Briere is the NHL's reigning leading little man.
In a game where size is supposed to matter, physics might suggest a man the size of Briere, just 5'10" and 175lbs, shouldn't able to participate. But through immense talent, great speed, a dash of luck, and undeniable desire, Briere doesn't just participate, he dominates. He's overcome many obstacles in his career, but you could argue that he may be the best player in the National Hockey League right now not named Sidney Crosby.
Briere follows in the footsteps of other hockey midgets who defied tall odds to achieve great things in the rough and tumble world of the NHL. Martin St. Louis, Brian Gionta, Saku Koivu, Steve Sullivan, Martin Strake, Dan Boyle, Brian Rafalski are among the other veterans in Briere's skates.
The trail always had a few pint-sized blazers in the past, namely Theoren Fleury, Pat Verbeek, Igor Larionov, Ziggy Palffy, Cliff Ronning, Mats Naslund, Paul Kariya, Doug Gilmour, Donald Audette, even Tie Domi.
Even some of the all time greats were smurfs: Marcel Dionne, Ted Lindsay, Henri Richard, Camille Henry, King Clancy, Max Bentley, Dave Keon, Shrimp Worters Pat Stapleton, to name just a few. And hey, Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky are hardly big men by NHL standards, yet their size was never a detraction.
While the new NHL is more inviting for the small, speedy skilled player, bottom line is these players all succeeded because they were willing to play the big man's game. They never backed down, never shied from the heavy traffic and dangerous corners, and even initiated physical play. Yes, they need to be skilled and they definitely need speed, perhaps more so than their larger competitors, but they also had to be willing to pay the physical price. It's the same story today as it was 10 years, 30 years ago and 50 years ago.
The myth about small hockey players not being able to play in the NHL has been busted time and time again. Daniel Briere is just the latest in a long line of fantastic players.