Despite his lack of size Daniel Briere emerged as an exciting and clutch scorer, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He was a hockey poolies' dream - as close to a guarantee as you can get in terms of playoff scoring production.
In 124 NHL post season contests Briere had an impressive 116 points including 53 goals. His consistency ranks him among the best of his peers.
"I knew when the game was on the line, I wanted to be the guy who was going to make the play. I wanted to have the puck, I wanted to find a way to make it happen."
Briere was a first-round pick (24th overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes back in 1996, after a spectacular career with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In 198 QMJHL games he scored an amazing 170 goals and 416 points, including 163 in his final season.
Yet his size - just five-foot-nine and 185lbs - was about the only numbers many focused on. Briere used that to motivate him.
"NHL executives or experts, ex-players ... had made some comments and had seen me play and most of the people all said that I was too small, too fragile to play in the NHL," Briere said. "I had a lot of those cut-ups in my room. I had a little box that I kept by my bed that any time things would get tough a little bit that I would open and read and keep up. That was kind of my motivation at the time to prove them wrong."
Yet he would struggle to make the NHL. It took him six seasons to emerge as a bonafide NHLer with the Coyotes, registering 32 goals and 60 points in the 2001-02 season.
"There was a lot of tough times, tough moments -- clearing waivers when nobody picked me up," Briere said. "That's another thing that I'm very proud of, that I fought and I never quit, and I kept working hard to achieve my dream."
He would regress the following season which led to his departure to Buffalo. With the Sabres he became one of the NHL's top scorers, remarkably using his nifty and shifty skating and puck handling skills to over come his diminutive size.
Briere soared in Buffalo, leading the team in scoring during his first full campaign, then established a career-high in points by notching 95 in 2006-07. Those Sabres teams made memorable deep runs into the playoffs, with Briere and Chris Drury capturing the fans' hearts.
Both players would be enticed by huge contract offers and leave in the summer of 2007 - Drury to the New York Rangers and Briere to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Sabres floundered soon after.
Briere went on to considerable success in Philadelphia, particularly in the playoffs where he cemented his reputation as a big game performer. He helped the Flyers to the conference final his first year and to the Stanley Cup final in 2010. Though they lost to Chicago, Briere led the team in scoring with 30 points in 23 games. He was gold in hockey pools.
Injuries finally started slowing down the undersized right winger by 2012. He achieved a dream of playing with the Montreal Canadiens in the 2013-14 season, even if he was rarely used by coach Michel Therrien.
“I feel fortunate that I had the chance to play here, to wear that uniform for a season. It’s something I’ll keep with me for a long time.
“Having a chance to play in front of the fans here was amazing. The (three-round) playoff run that we had, playing Boston, winning in seven games, an Original Six series, that was really cool. I have a lot of good memories. All I want to say is thank you to the fans and the Montreal organization for giving me the chance.”
Briere joined the Colorado Avalanche for his final NHL campaign in 2014-15.
Briere, a single father, finished his career with 307 goals and 696 points in 973 regular-season games. But being away from his kids, who live in Philadelphia, was too much of a price to pay.
"You come to a point where you have to think about your life, their life and who you're affecting with your decisions," Briere said. "As hockey players, you do something your whole life, and the decisions you have to make get tougher and tougher."