1969 NHL Amateur Draft Pick
Round Overall
3 26
Michel Briere
Selected by Pittsburgh from Shawinigan (QJHL)
Pittsburgh Penguins Shawinigan Bruins
Michel Briere

5-foot-10, 160 pounds

Left-hand shot


Pre-Draft Statistics

Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1967-68Shawinigan QJHL 50 54 105 159 --
1968-69 Shawinigan QJHL 55 75 86 161 31

Pre-Draft Notes

Led QJHL in points in 1967-68 & 1968-69. ... 1967-68 QJHL All-Star 2nd Team... 1968-69 QJHL All-Star First Team. ... Played in 1969 Memorial Cup with Sorel.
Canadian • Born Oct. 21, 1949 in Malartic, Quebec • Hometown: Malartic, Quebec • Died April 13, 1971

Career Vitals

First contract: 1969
Debut: October 11, 1969
(Pittsburgh vs. Oakland)
First NHL goal: November 1, 1969
(Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota)
Final NHL game: April 30, 1970 (playoffs)
(Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis)
Stanley Cup: Never won
Number worn: 21 (number retired)

Career NHL Statistics

Team: Pittsburgh
Years: 1970-1971. Playoffs: 1970

Regular Season
1 year 76 12 32 44 20
Stanley Cup Playoffs
1 year 10 5 3 8 17
Complete statistics available at NHL.com 

Career Highlights

Scored his first NHL goal in front of 6,000 fans at Civic Arena, helping Red Kelly get first win as Penguins head coach on Nov. 1, 1969. Briere's goal came in the same game in which linemate Dean Prentice scored his 300th career NHL goal. After the game, Prentice tod reporters he felt Briere had a bright future in the league and would likely score 300 goals in his own NHL career. ... Led Pittsburgh with 32 assists as rookie in 1969-70. ... Scored series-clinching goal at 8:28 of overtime to give Pittsburgh a best-of-7 sweep of Seals on April 12, 1970, at Oakland. Briere's goal was the first overtime goal in Penguins history, and it gave the team its first playoff series victory in what was also its first trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs. ... Won Pittsburgh Rookie of Year for 1969-70. The award was renamed in his memory the following year.

Retired Sweater Number

Following Briere's tragic death, no Pittsburgh player wore the No. 21 again, as the number was unofficially retired without any sort of ceremony. The only item commemorating the number was a framed  No. 21 jersey in the Igloo Club at the arena. As the 30th annniversary of Briere's death approached, the Penguins held a special pregame ceremony before their Jan. 5, 2001, home game vs. Montreal, to formally raise the No. 21 to the rafters of Civic Arena. It became the only number hanging in the rafters at the time, since Mario Lemieux's No. 66 had been taken down nine days earlier to celebrate Lemieux's NHL comeback.

The Death of Michel Briere

Michel Briere's promising NHL career came to a sudden and tragic end when a May 15, 1970, auto accident caused head injuries that put him into a coma for several months until his death. The crash happened eight miles north of his native Malartic, Quebec, where he had returned after his rookie season to make plans for his June 6, 1970, marriage to Michelle Beaudoin, with whom he already had a son. He purchased a new car with the bonus money he had earned from the 1970 playoffs. Not long after he bought it, Briere lost control of it during a late afternoon drive on Highway 117 and crashed into a tree. Driving fast on Highway 117 was not common, but there was a bend in the road that caused problems for drivers at high speed. Briere's car went off the road at that spot. Briere was thrown from the car, and his head smashed into a nearby rock. Two other men, Renald Bilodeau, Briere's best friend, and Yvon Fortin, were also in the car and were also injured. There was even some question as to whether or not Briere was even driving the car at the time of the accident because both Bilodeau and Fortin refused to tell police -- perhaps fearing criminal charges in the case. Although he was not killed instantly, Briere lapsed into a coma with a fractured skull. Incredibly, as the ambulance containing Briere rushed to the hospital, it struck and kiilled an 18-year-old named Reauld Perreault, who was walking along the highway. Briere was taken to Val d'Or, Quebec, and flown to Notre Dame Hospital in Montreal, where he had a four-hour operation to to remove blood clots from his brain. It was immediately clear that he would not be playing hockey in 1970-71 although there was initial hope that he might regain consciousness. He was given a 50-50 chance at such recovery. Briere had a second operation on May 30, 1970, to remove another blood clot from his brain. He would have two more such operations. There was a sense of hope in July that Briere might recover, but by August, doctors at the hospital in Montreal were publicly saying they did not know if he would ever come out of the coma. His weight had dropped all the way down to 102 pounds as he was fed intravenously and showed no signs of improvement. At that time, doctors said he had only "very elementary reactions" to physiotherapy. On Oct. 21, 1970, Briere turned 21 years old. By January 1971, there was no improvement in Briere's condition, and, while praying for his recovery, team officials publicly stated that they did not expect him ever to play hockey again if he were to come out of the coma. At that time, the Penguins team visited Briere at the hospital while they were in Montreal for a game against the Canadiens. Some of the Pittsburgh players chose not to enter Briere's room, since they wanted to remember him as they had known him and not see him in a deteriorated state. Jack Riley, the Penguins Executive Director, and head coach Red Kelly went int the room with Briere. "I talked to him and Red talked to him," Riley told reporters Byron Yake. "We held his hand, and sometimes you got the feeling he knew who you were." By March, his condition had worsened, and death seemed imminent, although doctors said he was still clearly fighting for his life. With little hope for his survival, the decision was made to take Briere out of the hospital and transfer him to a Montreal convalescent home on March 27, 1971. On April 4, 1971, Pittsburgh fans honored Briere at Mellon Arena by announcing him as the winner of the James G. Balmer plaque for contributions to Pittsburgh hockey. On the afternoon of April 13, 1971, weighing only 60 pounds, Briere passed away. Between May 15, 1970, and his death 11 months later, Briere was never said to be fully conscious although his eyes remained open, and his fiancee later said he appeared very sad and cried on a day when she thought he had improved enough to bring his skates into the hospital room.
NHL.com Briere Tribute Video

Other Facts

Full Name: Michel Edouard Briere
Nickname: "Mike"
Also Known As: Michael Briere


Pittsburgh renamed its Rookie of  Year Award the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy in 1971. The QMJHL named its annual MVP award the Michel Briere Trophy in 1972. The main hockey arena in the town of Malartic, Quebec, is named Centre Michel Briere. Played on line with Jean Pronovost for Pittsburgh during 1969-70 season.
Total Selected: 84
Forwards: 58
Defense: 18
Goaltenders: 8
Major Junior: 68
College Players: 8
Canadian: 78
Euro-Canadian: 1
American: 4
European: 1
Reached NHL: 49
Won Stanley Cup: 10
Hall of Fame: 1
All-Star Game: 7
Year-end All-Star: 1
Olympians: 2
Picks Traded: 11


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