This is the time of year when you see all those warm and fuzzy homecomings. People returning to their roots and where they used to call home. But the most intriguing homecoming may come in Buffalo on Friday night.
Daniel Briere and Martin Biron still consider themselves Buffalonians. They maintain a strong presence in the community with their charity work off the ice. Biron still calls Buffalo home in the offseason with his wife Christine, also a Buffalo native.
But it will be a new expierence for both players as they return home for the first time as enemy opposition. But both have their reasons to look forward to playing in front of their old fans.
For Biron, its a chance to return to where it all began, the team that made him a 1st round pick back in 1995 and groomed him to be the heir apparent to Dominik Hasek.
He served strong in that role for 2 seasons, including playing 72 games back in 2001-2002 on a poor Buffalo team, until Ryan Miller won the job coming out of the lockout.
But Biron never was one to rock the boat, his quick wit and charm endearing to this fans and teammates. He sat quietly (metaphorically speaking, Marty cant shut up!), biding his time until his chance to prove he can be a solid number 1 in the league. He won 13 straight while subbing for an injured Miller in 2005, but then returned to his backup role while the Sabres went to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But Biron longed to be the starter again, politely asking GM Darcy Regier to make it happen after the 06 season. But when a trade could not be worked out, he never complained and kept being the consummate professional he always was. When he was finally traded to Philadelphia at the trade deadline, no one was happier for him then his teammates and fans. He was finally getting his chance to show he can be a Number 1 again.
So, for Biron, its mostly good feelings coming back for him as he returns. He is a number 1 and gets to play in front of the fans who supported him for so long, regardless of his role. But for Danny Briere, it could be a different sort of feelings.
Briere was rescued by the Sabres from the scrap heap known as the Coyotes in 2003 and made him an instant favorite among fans. He became a more well rounded player, and became a leader on 2 very good Sabre teams, on his way to a career high 95 point season last year, capped off by an All-Star Game MVP showing.
Briere never shied away from letting his true feelings be known. As July 1st approached, he made it clear that he wanted to stay in Buffalo and help finish what he started just 2 seasons before. He loved the community, his teammates and fans and wanted to stay a part of all of it. But when July 1st hit, Buffalo management never came calling, deciding against resigning the one who expressed the desire to stay, instead going for the OTHER captain, the stone cold assassin who decided to go the other way.
So Briere was left like a bride jilted at the altar, expressing his love for someone who didnt love him back. So he headed off to Philly, 52 million dollars richer, but with a void that he cant yet fill.
So Briere comes back with love for the fans, coaches and teammates, and maybe a bit of resentment towards the people who sent him packing. When asked by a local radio station how he would feel if he was booed by the fans, he said "It wont change how I feel about them. I will always cherish the fans and memories of my time in Buffalo and nothing can change that."
It will be different to see them in different colors, but we can never forget what they did for us while they were here.