Danny Briere’s goal for Flyers — win Stanley Cup, famous first fans

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PHILADELPHIA — Danny Briere has a couple of famous fans rooting him on in Philadelphia just a short Amtrak ride away. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are Flyers fans and have met Briere through the years. Jill Biden once said she kept a Briere bobblehead doll on her nightstand.

Could the last face the Bidens see at night in the White House still belong to a pint-sized, bobbling Briere?

“I certainly hope so,” Briere said with a laugh.

Briere can only wish the next time he sees Biden he’s gifting the President a jersey at a White House championship visit.

So begins the work toward a Stanley Cup.

Briere hit the road in his first scouting trip in his new front office job Thursday to California to catch American Hockey League games, and maybe find a prospect or two that can help the forlorn Philadelphia Flyers down the road.

The Flyers (15-23-8) need all the help they can get.

Briere was promoted this week from a player development role to special assistant to general manager Chuck Fletcher. He’ll be involved in all aspects of the club’s hockey operations, including scouting and player development.

Briere spent six seasons as a member of the Flyers after he joined them as a free agent on an eight-year, $52 million deal in 2007. He had 124 goals and 159 assists for 283 points in 364 regular-season games and helped lead the Flyers to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. His 30 points in 23 games set a franchise record for most points in a single postseason.

The 2010 run seems ages ago in Philadelphia, where the Flyers scuffle in losses in a mostly-empty arena, with an eye on the March 21 trade deadline as the spark needed toward remaking the roster.

“We have to deal with it now,” Briere said Thursday by phone from the airport. “We have to try to take advantage of the different opportunities that might come and be prepared for that.”

Briere now has a larger voice in the room.

The promotion was largely motivated by Briere’s dalliance with the general manager vacancy in Montreal. Briere said Montreal told him he was among three finalists for the job that went to Kent Hughes last month.

“I didn’t expect that,” Briere said. “I didn’t think I’d be in this situation so early.”

Just a week after Montreal’s decision, Fletcher hinted in a state-of-the-Flyers press conference that Briere’s role in hockey operations would soon expand.

“He’s a very good evaluator of players and I think there’s a lot he can add to our group,” Fletcher said. “He has been involved in a lot of the decisions. He’s sat in pretty much every big meeting we’ve had the last two years. I’ve enjoyed working with him and hopefully something that can transition to even a bigger role with us going forward.”

Briere didn’t know how he wanted to stay involved with hockey once he retired from a 17-year career — with 307 goals and 696 points — in 2015. He met shortly with former general manager Paul Holmgren, who signed Briere to the free-agent deal, and was invited to spend time on the administrative side of the operation. Briere learned the business from the ground up — marketing, ticket sales, social media, finance — and caught a break in 2017 when the Flyers’ parent company bought an ECHL team in Maine. Briere largely oversaw the day-to-day operations of the team.

He also became an Ivy Leaguer.

Briere took classes from 2019-21 through the general management program at Wharton, the business school at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I think it’s different going back to school when you’re 40 years old compared to 18, 19, when you don’t want to be in school,” Briere said, laughing. “I tried to do something that would help me moving forward.”

Briere knew a familiar face in his class — 76ers general manager Elton Brand. Like Briere, Brand signed a rich free-agent contract (in 2008) with the Sixers, joined the front office after retirement and has been Philadelphia’s general manager since 2018.

Briere and Brand even faced off in a negotiation training workshop.

“We had a fierce negotiation,” Briere said. “It was pretty cool. We both held on to the end.”

Both are now trying from the front office to make good on the unfulfilled championship promises as players.

The city — and the White House — waits.

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