Memo to Habs fans

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

Here is yet another bitter pill for fans of the Montreal Canadiens to digest.

The NHL announced yesterday that the top-selling jersey on NHL.com for the month of August was that of speedy forward Daniel Briere.

And it wasn't a Habs sweater, either.

It has been more than two months since Briere passed over a number of lucrative free-agent offers, including one from the Habs, in order to ink a whopping eight-year, $52-million US deal with the Philadelphia Flyers.

And, judging by the way his duds are being snapped up by all the Flyer Fanatics out there, 'Broad St. Briere' will be a dandy addition.

"The No. 1 selling jersey? I didn't have a clue. That's really cool," Briere said last night. "That's a bit of a surprise. It's flattering when fans appreciate your work."

Briere's decision to gobble up all those lovely Flyers dollars might sit well with him, but obviously it has left a sour taste in the mouths of some in La Belle Province.

All summer, questions swirled throughout Montreal as to why Briere would shun the Habs.

Yes, the native of Gatineau, Que., could have been the new cult hero at the Bell Centre, the French-Canadian star Montrealers have thirsted for since Patrick Roy stormed off the Forum ice more than a decade ago.

But it was Briere's decision to make, and he made it, for whatever reason. It's old news. Let it go, people.

But in Montreal, they can't. Instead the issue flared up again over the weekend, creating controversy that enraged both the Habs front office and the Briere camp.

A story in the Montreal-based La Presse newspaper suggested that one of the reasons Briere snubbed the Habs was because the team would not guarantee him a spot on the top line with Chris Higgins and Michael Ryder.

Speaking to Montreal reporters, livid Habs president Pierre Boivin accused the article of being full of lies.

Said Boivin: "It bothers me that free agency started two months ago and we're still talking about this story."

One person who refuses to talk about the Habs situation is Briere, and understandably so. Time and time again he has recounted his reasons for opting for Philly, but there are some who just won't take him at his word.

"People might think I'm crazy but I like the direction the Flyers are headed," Briere said. "They made great moves at the trade deadline, signed (Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell) in the summer, and already had a good young core with guys like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. When you sign a contract like mine, you look at the long-term prospects, not just those for one year.

TEAMMATES

"I'm excited to play with Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne. Marty Biron and I were roommates in Buffalo. And I played junior with Denis Gauthier. Our first goal is to make the playoffs. And I truly believe it can happen."

Interestingly, one of the teams the Flyers could be battling against for a post-season spot might be those same Habs, who did not enjoy the best of summers. They lost out on Briere, allowed power play specialist Sheldon Souray to flee for Edmonton, and grossly overpaid for veteran defenceman Roman Hamrlik, who was given a four-year, $22-million US deal.

Maybe a few egos were bruised along Montreal's famed Crescent St. when Briere didn't take the Habs' money. But with training camps set to kick off this week, the concern should be with the leaky Canadiens roster, not that of the Flyers and of what might have been.


Photos