There was a time in Carson Briere’s life when hockey did not mean fun. Just the opposite.
He would have one of those special days that sons of famous people cherish, doing something, anything with his hockey-playing father during one of those rare moments he could spare from practicing or plying his craft.
Or he would be there to watch and wait, wait for the end of a practice or a game so Danny Briere could be dad again.
``There were definitely times when I was young where I was like, `This isn’t fair,’ ’’ Carson Briere was saying during a break Wednesday at the Flyers’ development camp. ``Going out in public and people mobbing my dad. Especially at hockey events. And having to sit at the rink for an extra hour, hour and a half because he’d always sign autographs for everyone.
"But it taught me a lot about just how he was as a person. And showing me how to be mature. I think it forced me to mature a little faster than kids my age.’’
That’s mentally. As a hockey player, Carson Briere is your classic late bloomer, cut several times as he went through the local food chain of elite teams in this area, slowed by a little extra baby fat and the weight of living up to one of the more prolific players to wear a Flyers jersey.
``He grew up coming before games to the wives’ room, doing his homework,’’ Danny Briere beamed. ``And then after games being in the dressing room. Growing up with the Flyers, I’m sure it’s a special time this week.’’
An undrafted 19-year-old, Carson Briere was invited to the Flyers camp by Brent Flahr, the new assistant general manager. His father, who these days runs the Comcast-owned Maine Mariners franchise in the ECHL, insisted that he had nothing to do with the invitation, that ``it was out of the blue, unexpected,’’ and that he wanted to make sure his son knew that and believed that too.
``It was pretty cool for me too,’’ said Papa Briere.
Carson Briere believed his father. Since he first donned skates, he’s had to deal not only with the pressure of being the son of an NHL star, but the charges he is there only because of who his father is, not who he is.
Even this last season, he said, when he scored 44 goals and had 89 points for the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL, and was named the East Division’s most valuable player, ``I was still getting the, `You’re here because of your dad.'
``And I was like, `I’ve got more goals than your whole team combined right now.’ It just makes me laugh at this point. They think they’re clever, but I’ve been hearing that since I started playing hockey.
``I’m like, ‘You’ve got to come up with something a little more clever than that to get under my skin.’ ’’
Briere’s breakout season attracted the interest of Arizona State coach Greg Powers, who has developed a sweet tooth for the late-blooming sons of former NHL greats. Austin Lemieux, son of Mario, is a redshirt sophomore there. Jackson Niedermeyer, son of Scott, has committed to play there in 2021. The son of Shane Doan – one of Danny’s best NHL friends – recently committed to play there as well.
One of three Briere boys ranging 18 to 21, middle child Carson is looking forward to being less conspicuous when he pulls a hockey sweater on in Tempe this fall.
``I’ll bet half the kids won’t even know who my dad is,’’ he said hopefully.
Unless they ask their fathers. Danny Briere, after all, began his NHL career as a Coyote, where it took him four seasons to establish himself as an everyday pro, and ultimately, a star too.
Carson Briere isn’t thinking that far ahead. He’s not thinking past this week, really.
``I think when I was younger I felt there was some pressure,’’ he said. ``I was getting frustrated when I wasn’t doing good sometimes because I felt like I had to live up to something. But once I got older and a little more mature, I realized hockey’s hockey, just go out there and have fun.