Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Claude Giroux: A Rising Star

The Flyers revamped their team during the 2011 off-season, focusing on putting all the onus on their young superstar Claude Giroux. In 77 games in the 2011-12 season, Claude had a career year scoring 28 goals and 65 assists for a total of 93 points, all career highs, still. He finished 3rd in the NHL for most points.

After leading the Flyers to the 2012 playoffs, Claude dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round amassing 14 points (1 shy of the franchise record set by Tim Kerr in 1989). When asked about his performance, teammate and good friend Danny Briere said, "He was possessed!"
Giroux buries Crosby
Unfortunately the Flyers were eliminated in the second round by the New Jersey Devils. Giroux ended the playoffs tied for the lead in goals with 8 and 4th in points with 17, despite playing 10+ fewer games than the leaders.

On January 15th, 2013, only days away from the start of the shortened season, the Flyers named Claude Giroux their new captain, replacing the injured Chris Pronger (concussion like symptoms). Giroux became the 19th captain in Flyers history (and 5th youngest). Since then, Giroux has compiled 246 points in 258 games (as of January 29th, 2016).

How did it all start for Claude Giroux?

Claude Growing up in Hearst
Claude Giroux, at the age of 17, was the star of the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), who he played between 2005 and 2008. Giroux played in 197 games, scoring 125 goals and 196 assists for 321 points. He also played 41 playoff games scoring 24 goals and 54 assists for 78 points.

But all this didn't come this easily for Claude. Giroux wanted to play for the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), nearest to his home in Heart Ontario, but he was never drafted. To be drafted by the Canadian Junior Hockey League, a player must have an impressive Bantam and Midget career.

Claude playing for the QMJHL
When Claude was 13 years old, in 2001, he played for his hometown Bantam hockey team, the Hearst Lumber Kings, part of the NOHA (Northern Ontario Hockey Association). Hearst, a small French-speaking community located in Northern Ontario, Canada, is where Claude was born and grew up with his sister, Isabel, and his parents, Raymond and Nicole.

At the age of 15, Claude's family moved to the nation's capital, Ottawa. That didn't stop Claude from playing his beloved sport. In 2002-2003, he played Major Bantam hockey for the Cumberland Barons and in 2003-4, Claude moved up to Minor Midget AA for the same club. In 39 games with the Barons, Claude registered a very impressive 31 goals and 28 assists for 59 points. The following season, he advanced to Junior A ice hockey (part of the Central Canadian Hockey League) playing for the Cumberland Grads.

Giroux training at 17 before being drafted in the NHL

BĂ©atrice-Desloges High School Grad
This would be his final season leading up to the Canadian Junior draft, a season he would need to impress. But this would be the year that Claude would be slowed down by Mononucleosis, a viral disease that causes fever, sore throat and fatigue. This caused him to play in only 48 of the 62 games on the schedule. Still Giroux accumulated 13 goals and 27 assists for 40 points in those 48 games.

Claude with his IIHF gold medal
This, however, ultimately led to Claude Giroux being snubbed by every team in the OHL and thus he failed to be drafted in 2005. But that paved the way for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL to invite Claude to their training camp. There he made the team and had three outstanding seasons with the club.

Giroux played so well for Gatineau that in 2008 he was invited to represent Junior Team Canada in the IIHF's  (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Junior Hockey Championship (Under 20) tournament. Playing for Team Canada, he scored two goals and four assists in eight games helping his nation win their 14th gold medal in the event.
Claude drafted by Philadelphia in 2006

In 2008, along with his IIHF gold medal, Giroux also went on to win the President Cup for the QMJHL Champion scoring 17 goals and 51 points in just 19 games. He was awarded the Guy Lafleur Trophy for MVP of the playoffs.

Two years prior, Claude Giroux entered the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, where he was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1st round (22nd overall).

Giroux started his professional career with the AHL's (American Hockey League) Philadelphia Phantoms. But he did not last there too long as the Flyers called him up to the big club on December 26th, 2008. His shortened AHL season lasted only 33 games, where he scored 17 goals and 17 assists. He would play the remaining 42 games with the NHL scoring 9 goals and 18 assists.

2010 Playoff Beard
Claude played his first full NHL season in 2009 but had somewhat disappointing stats (16 goals, 31assists in 82 games played), as the Flyers were hoping that he would blossom. And blossom he did, as soon as the playoffs began. Giroux would help the Flyers make it to the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago scoring 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points in 23 playoff games. His biggest goal came in overtime of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago tying the series up at two games apiece.

The following season, 2010-11, saw Giroux take off registering career numbers: 25 goals and 51 assists for 76 points in 82 games. Due to his outstanding play, Giroux was selected to participate in his first NHL All Star game. Claude suited up along side teammate and housemate Danny Briere and registered a goal and an assist in the game.

Danny and Claude at the 2011 All Star Game
Briere and Giroux became very close as the season went on. Briere has three children, Caelan, Carson and Cameron, and after going through a  rough period in his life (Briere divorced his wife of 13 years), he asked Claude, if he wanted to stay at his house in Haddonfield with Danny and his three children. Giroux agreed and they become like a family. Danny, 33, at the time, was like an older brother to Claude, 23, who was like an older brother to Danny's children were were 9, 11, and 12 at the time.

Briere and Giroux living together

During the 2011 off-season, the Flyers traded their cornerstones, captain Mike Richards and alternate captain Jeff Carter. One of the reasons why these trades were possible was because of the emergence of Claude Giroux. The Flyers expected big things from their young superstar, and so far, Giroux, or the man they simply call 'G', has succeeded those expectations averaging over a point per game from 2011 to 2015.

Claude at the 2012 Winter Classic
On January 2nd, 2012 the Philadelphia Flyers hosted the New York Rangers at Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia for the NHL's annual Winter Classic. Claude, who jokingly asked New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist if he could score just one goal (as seen on HBO's 24/7 documentary), did just that, scoring the Flyers second goal of the game.

On January 29th, 2012, Claude was selected to participate in his second consecutive All Star game where he joined teammates Scottie Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen. Giroux was able to score his second career All Star goal after receiving a nice pass from teammate and buddy, Hartnell.
Hartnell, Timonen and Giroux at the 2012 All Star Game
As of January 29th, 2016, Giroux has been elected to four All Star games, including the one he will participate in this weekend.
Giroux with teammate Jake Voracek at the 2015 NHL All Star game
In the years that followed, Giroux has become a great leader on and off the ice. On the ice, Giroux has proven to be one of the best talents in the National Hockey League. Since the 2010-11 season, no player has more points than Claude Giroux. And when all the chips are down when it all matters the most, in the playoffs Giroux has 61 points in 57 games for the Flyers.

Giroux walks CTV through his favorite spots in Ottawa
Claude at his CCG

Claude Giroux isn't just a superstar on the ice. In 2010, Giroux partnered up with the Hearst Notre-Dame Hospital Foundation to create the Claude-Giroux Centre for Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation. Nancy Girard, coordinator of the department of physiotherapy said, "It's a dream come true for the physiotherapy department!" 
Claude at Flyers Charity Golf Outing

"This wonderful project will improve the quality of care for our community and will open doors to a possible diversification of services offered, always to improve the quality of life in Hearst and the region,"  Girard continued.

The 28 year old captain, center, number 28, G, Claude Giroux, superstar for the Philadelphia Flyers, is a winner on and off the ice.
Claude smiling at Winter Classic family skate

(Thanks to CTV for the video, xkaren08,, the Philadelphia Flyers, Nike, the NHL, AHL, OHL, QMJHL, IIHF, CCHL, NOHA, & to the Claude Giroux Centre.)