The reality of the National Hockey League lockout was driven further home today when Philadelphia Flyers' forwards Claude Giroux and Danny Briere both agreed to contracts with Eisbaren Berlin in the Deutsche Eishiockey Lig. For those who didn't take German in school and don't want to use an online translator, this means that the Berlin Polar Bears of the German Ice Hockey League have obtained two great players.
These high-scoring Flyers' forwards are smartly choosing to keep their talents sharp during this time of North American uncertainty. They will surely be embraced by all Polar Bear fans as well.
After playing two NHL games in 2007-08, Giroux scored 27 points (9 goals and 18 assists) in 42 games for the Flyers in 2008-09. By that time his potential to become a force in the League was obvious and his ice vision reminded me of Peter Forsberg's skill level.
Building upon a 47-point season in 2009-10 and a 76-point season in 2010-11, 'G' fully came into his own in 2011-12. While Giroux's superb 28 goal, 65 assist effort didn't earn him a place among the three Hart Trophy finalists, it did confirm his stature among the League's elite offensive forces.
I remember when Briere was a very pesky forward on many Buffalo Sabres' teams (2002-03 through 2006-07).
'Danny B' had three goals and five assists in the 2006 Conference Quarter-Finals against the Flyers. His final assist came in the Sabres embarrassingly memorable 7-1 Game 6 blowout that served to clinch the series. After spending a final season in Buffalo (2006-07), he then agreed to an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Flyers.
Some people were more than willing to jump on number 48 during the early part of his Flyers' tenure. That type of emotional knee-jerk reaction is typical to those that other high-profile professional athletes receive when they sign big-money deals.
Briere went on to become one of the team's best playoff performers. Through 68 career postseason Flyers' games, he has 37 goals and 35 assists. Those 72 points place him sixth on the Flyers' all-time postseason scoring list. Briere ranks just ahead of Tim Kerr (70 points in 73 games) and just behind John LeClair (74 points in 116 games). Bobby Clarke ranks first, with 119 points in 136 games.
Some fellow hockey friends, family members and I recently compared notes about a local blue collar business that has been involved in a labor dispute with its workers for more than a year. Because we are rational, we don't claim to know which side is right. We also understand the comparative differences between this situation and that of a professional hockey league.
All of our hockey heroes will head home after the NHL and the Players' Association resolve their differences. After that happens we plan to purchase the product the franchise owners will be selling once again. Those who choose to believe that it's productive, or normal, to hold grudges against people who they don't even know probably won't do the same. Their behavior will enable the rest of us to buy better seats at the rink.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He was a freelance sports writer for five years in the 1990s and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOBand also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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