Captain 1,000: Flyers salute Giroux in potential final days

Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux is set on Thursday to play his 1,000th career game.

File photo: Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux celebrates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens, Sunday, March 13, 2022, in Philadelphia. Giroux's 1,000th career game with the Flyers on Thursday night could be his last in orange-and-black for the 34-year-old center approaching the final months of his contract

File photo: Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux celebrates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens, Sunday, March 13, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

The party planned for Claude Giroux’s 1,000th game with the Philadelphia Flyers seems appropriately lavish for a team captain who has spent his entire career with the franchise.

The Flyers will celebrate Giroux and his family before Thursday night’s game and have invited special guests of honor. Giroux will be gifted custom artwork, fans can purchase commemorative tickets and players will wear warmup jerseys with “Giroux” and No. 28 on the back.

If that hasn’t whet the appetite for a bash 15 years in the making, perhaps this will: Giroux’s favorite snack — grilled cheese sandwiches that he superstitiously used to eat before every game — will be on sale on every level of the arena.

The night should be a celebration of a career that includes 291 goals, 900 points, a trip to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final and this season’s All-Star Game MVP trophy.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

But not-so-deep-down, all involved know what the ceremony is really about — it’s time to say goodbye.

Giroux’s 1,000th career game with the Flyers could be his last in orange and black for the 34-year-old center as he plays out the final months of his contract. The NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. EST Monday, and with the Flyers in last place (18-30-11; 47 points) in the Metropolitan Division, the obvious parting gift is to send Giroux to a contender.

Giroux and the Flyers publicly have tried to downplay trade talks as the 1,000-game milestone looms, but the breakup seems all but inevitable. Giroux finally gets to chase the championship that has eluded him, while the Flyers could get the draft picks and prospects needed to restock a failing roster. The Flyers are years away from contention and Giroux doesn’t have the time left in his career to stick around for a rebuild.

“If I can be honest, I’m trying to focus on playing 1,000 games with the Flyers,” Giroux said Wednesday. “It’s something I’m proud of. I’m very happy I got the chance to do this. After that, it’s going to be, change the mindset a little bit and see how things are going to go.”

He has grown into a family man in his tenure, with a wife and two young sons. Giroux’s parents and other family members attended Wednesday’s practice in New Jersey and more friends and former teammates will attend the game-day festivities.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Some of Giroux’s best moments came off the ice, like the time former coach Craig Berube challenged Giroux to an arm-wrestling contest at a bar in Nashville. Let former Flyer Scott Hartnell explain:

“I was the referee with hands on them ready to arm wrestle,” Hartnell said. “G kinda let Chief have the first win. Then just like the movie ‘Over the Top’ with Sylvester Stallone, just went (made a whipping noise) and hammered him down and got in his face all over him. We were just going bananas. I think we made Chief leave the bar because he was embarrassed he lost.”

Some of Giroux’s other finest moments include:

— Best in the World. Giroux flattened Sidney Crosby only five seconds into the game, buried his sixth goal of the series past Marc-Andre Fleury 27 seconds later and led the Flyers to a clinching Game 6 playoff victory over Pittsburgh in 2012. He gestured toward the crowd and slammed the glass in celebration after his goal, firing up 20,000 fans and delivering on the hype of former coach Peter Laviolette’s claim that Giroux was the “best player in the world.”

— Game 3. With the Flyers down 0-2 to Chicago in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, Giroux delivered in the clutch in a must-win game. He scored 5:59 into overtime to give the Flyers a 4-3 victory. “He was smiling all day, came to the arena and had a great game. Talented kid,” Laviolette said.

— Hat Trick. Giroux’s first career hat trick in the regular season helped the Flyers clinch a playoff berth on the last day of the 2012 season. He finished with 34 goals and 102 points, the only time he topped 100 points in his career.

— Cold Outside. The Flyers packed nearly 70,000 fans inside the NFL stadium across the street for a 2019 outdoor game against the Penguins. Down two goals in the third period, the Flyers scored twice in the waning minutes and Giroux had the winner 1:59 into overtime, sending what was left of the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

“I think maybe it took me a little while to understand what it is to play in Philly,” Giroux said. “I got to figure it out and understand how they are. They’re absolutely nuts. Their passion, how they want to win. You have to respect the way they think, the way they act.”

A first-round pick in the 2006 draft, Giroux joins Hall of Famer and two-time Stanley Cup champion Bobby Clarke as the only players to reach 1,000 games entirely with the Flyers. Giroux made his debut on Feb. 19, 2008, scored his first goal on Jan. 27, 2009, and was named captain on Jan. 15, 2013.

He has done pretty much all except lead the Flyers to a championship.

“That is completely unfair to place it on G that we don’t have a Stanley Cup,” Flyers coach Mike Yeo said Wednesday. “Hopefully that moment does come for him, where he is a Stanley Cup winner.”

But where? Giroux will have to waive his no-movement clause that was part of his $66.2 million, eight-year contract.

Philadelphia Flyers’ Claude Giroux walks to the ice before an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

There were reasons beyond his 1,000th game milestone for the Flyers to wait before trading Giroux. Because of how the NHL salary cap works, teams can accumulate space daily and afford more on deadline day than weeks earlier. On Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche, which have been linked to Giroux, made a trade to save $1.275 million in cap space and still have the picks and prospects to facilitate a deal with Philadelphia.

“I mean, the love for the game is still there,” Giroux said.

So is his love for Philly.

But he’d surely appreciate hoisting a Stanley Cup this season just a little more.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal