Even Claude Giroux’s closest friends and teammates can’t remember the shape of his chin. He’s had the red beard so long, it’s become part of the package — “a gingey kid with a gingey beard who’s still a pretty good hockey player at 34 years old,” as former teammate Ian Laperriére put it.
The Flyers logo on his chest is just as big a part of who Giroux is. Even rivals, like the Washington Capitals’ Nicklas Bäckström, recently said they can’t picture him in any other jersey.
“I think that would be hard to see,” Bäckström said.
But fans, rivals, teammates and coaches will have to get used it. On Saturday, the Flyers traded Giroux to the Florida Panthers after Giroux waived his no-move clause.
As much as Giroux has loved being a Flyer, it was time for him to go — both for his own good and the Flyers’ good. Now, Giroux has a chance to do the one thing he’s never done: win a Stanley Cup. The Flyers recouped talented 23-year-old winger Owen Tippett, a conditional first-round pick in 2024 and a third-rounder in 2023 in return for Giroux, Connor Bunnaman, German Rubtsov and their fifth-round pick in 2024.
The Flyers never thought they’d be in this position, said Danny Brière, Giroux’s former teammate and current special assistant to Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. They thought they’d be competitive and Giroux would want to stay. But as the season went south, they told Giroux they were leaving his fate in his hands. That decision was born out of respect for him.
Giroux’s current teammates feel similarly. Before the trade, Sean Couturier said he’d be happy for Giroux if he decided to go. Scott Laughton had just one request, though.
“Go win a Cup,” Laughton said. “I’ll be his biggest cheerleader, for sure.”
The early years
Scott Hartnell’s first memory of Giroux is a rather inauspicious one — it’s Bob Clarke forgetting Giroux’s name as he announced the Flyers had selected him in the 2006 draft.
Looking back, Hartnell said it’s funny that that same kid is now the franchise’s next biggest legend behind Clarke.
Giroux would make his NHL debut on Feb. 19, 2008 against the Ottawa Senators. Interim coach Mike Yeo was in the Penguins system at the time, but remembers that game. The announcers kept mentioning a 20-year-old kid they had just called up, and “next thing you know, he’s out in a shootout.” Even as a rival coach, Yeo was impressed. If they were willing to give this young player that type of responsibility, he must have been something special.
While Giroux was sent back to the Phantoms after that, he was a permanent fixture with the Flyers by the second half of 2008-09. The next year, James van Riemsdyk joined him with the Flyers.
The two gravitated toward each other, van Riemsdyk recalled, because they were a similar age — and because they lived across the hall from each other in a 55-and-older community, where the other residents invited Giroux to play bingo.
That season, van Riemsdyk and Giroux did everything together, driving to practice and going out to eat. Van Riemsdyk always had to make the reservations, though, because the French-speaking Giroux was self-conscious about his English.
That self-consciousness made many of his teammates assume Giroux was shy. But Brière, who is French Canadian, picked up on his humor right away (although Brière and Couturier insist Giroux’s French is bad since he’s a French Ontarian, not a French Canadian). Brière saw a lot of himself in the “scrawny little kid trying to impress and make the team,” so he invited him to come live with him.
Brière did it as much for himself since it was just him and his three sons in a big house. The five of them had fun times, although Brière said he had to put some rules in place to keep the boys (including Giroux) from getting too wild.
“When I first saw him on the ice and how hard he competed and how much he wanted the puck, I realized quickly that he was going to be a pretty good player,” Brière said.
Then the Flyers reached the 2010 playoffs, and “everybody realized that we had to make room for him to play more,” Briere said. “It was time.”
‘He wanted all those responsibilities’
As Giroux grew more comfortable with his English and his role on the team, his voice came out.
“I’ll be honest,” Couturier said. “He won’t shut up on the ice. He just talks to everyone between whistles.”
Bäckström remembers fierce battles in the faceoff circle over the years, and his teammate Tom Wilson said he doesn’t think there’s been a single one where Giroux wasn’t chirping.
» READ MORE: Chuck Fletcher discusses Claude Giroux trade
Giroux’s competitiveness extends into every aspect of his life. He’s competitive about bowling, arm wrestling, soccer and even cards.
“He nicknamed himself ‘The Champ,’” Laughton said. “He is not ‘The Champ.’”
If there’s not a competition, he makes one, Travis Sanheim said. Laughton said Giroux loves the chance to make himself some extra money with wagers, and he’s not afraid to change rules so the odds are in his favor.
His competitiveness has become one of his most known characteristics, and Jake Voráček said it was what he was most excited about when he came to the Flyers. He couldn’t wait for their on-ice battles, and Giroux delivered both in practices and in games. They had many an argument following a power play, which were quickly replaced with laughter after the game.
Giroux’s will to win has pushed his teammates to be better. His ability to raise the competition level of the room while still making everyone feel welcome was rewarded when he was named captain on Jan. 15, 2013.
“He wanted all those responsibilities,” Hartnell said. “A lot of people don’t want it. They want to just stay in the weeds. He wanted to be a guy that was counted on every time.”
Four days later, Laughton made his NHL debut. As soon as he arrived in Philadelphia, Giroux took him under his wing. Giroux picked him up and drove him to his first game, teasing him for not getting his hair right. That’s something Laughton still checks to this day.
Giroux’s hospitality extended to young players, free agents, and even coaches. Yeo received a welcome phone call before his hiring was even public, as well as a friendly shoulder check at his first practice.
As players came in and out of the organization bearing tales of Giroux’s character, and as he matched that reputation with his on-ice performance, his legacy grew.
‘He’s still a kid’
The day the Flyers selected Isaac Ratcliffe in the 2017 NHL draft, he received a text from Giroux.
“So that was kind of my little superstar moment when I was 18,” Ratcliffe said. “I for sure screenshotted it and sent it to some of my friends back home. And they were like, ‘Oh my God, no way.’”
Giroux was a guy Ratcliffe watched and imitated growing up, trying to copy his “backhand toe-drag move.”
After debuting for the Flyers in January, Ratcliffe got to know his role model. Ratcliffe discovered he’s a down-to-earth, humble guy. Until he gets into a competition, of course.
Whether he’s rolling around on the ice or playing Sewer Ball (which Laughton swears Giroux adjusted the rules), Giroux has the same exuberance he had at 18. Hartnell said that’s the secret to his longevity. It’s also why the younger players love him so much.
“He’s still a kid,” Ratcliffe said. “I think that’s why he probably takes care of the young guys so well.”
But even the veterans appreciate what it means to have played with Giroux. Even at 27, Laughton said he had trouble sleeping before he played on Giroux’s line.
With Giroux’s laid-back personality, it’s easy to forget just how great he is during the day to day, Laughton said. This season, they’ve been reminded a lot, as he’s passed milestone after milestone.
But this season has also tested Giroux like never before. Between deciding whether to waive his no-move clause and trying to pull the Flyers through losing streak after losing streak, Giroux has had a lot on his mind. But Laughton said his play and demeanor haven’t changed. That’s cause for respect, Voráček said.
“I think one of the things that stands out for me is how well he handled that pressure that he had on his shoulders over the past 12 years in Philly,” Voráček said. “You know what I mean? Like it wasn’t easy, and usually he was the guy to get blamed because we didn’t win or something like that. And he just carried himself so well.”
Every person interviewed for this article, from coach to player, teammate to rival, agreed on one thing: Giroux’s legacy goes far beyond what people realize.
“I don’t think he gets enough credit for how good he is,” Bäckström said. “I mean, he’s had an amazing career and his many years to come to this. So. Yeah, he’s just hell of a player, you know?”
Couturier believes the lack of a Stanley Cup, a team achievement, shouldn’t affect how he is remembered. In their opinion, he is one of the best — if not the best — athletes in Philadelphia of his generation, and a future Hall of Famer.
Giroux ranks second in franchise history in games played (1,000), points (900) and assists (609), and was a key player in the Flyers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. Since 2009-10, Giroux’s first full season in the NHL, he ranks sixth among NHL players in points (873) and fourth in assists (591). The seven-time All-Star’s legacy goes far beyond his statistics, though. He’s become the face of the Flyers for his leadership, his skill and his impact on the community.
“Him and the Flyers go hand-in-hand with their names,” Laughton said.
He also gives to the community in numerous ways, from hosting people at games through Giroux’s Crew to his charity bowling tournaments in Philadelphia and his golf events in Ottawa.
While he’s a quiet, lead-by-example kind of person, Giroux will step up when called upon. As a result, he and van Riemsdyk are often the spokespeople for the team in hard times. Looking back to their rookie adventures, van Riemsdyk said he can’t believe how the time has flown.
With his 1,000th game as a Flyer coming and going, the organization knew he had a decision to make. While Voráček said it was probably the toughest decision of his lifetime and Laperriére said it probably broke his heart to agree to the trade, all of his friends and teammates want to see him win a Cup.
And even though the colors of his jersey have changed, Giroux will always be a Flyer.
“I know there’s going to be one day where Claude Giroux isn’t wearing the Flyers logo anymore, whether it’s after he’s done with hockey, or if he’s moving on to another team,” Ratcliffe said ahead of the trade. “And he’s going to want to make sure that it’s left in good hands. And I think he’s done a great job with a number of players over the years, making sure that they’re playing Flyers hockey, and that same mindset is brought every single night.
“He passes that behavior and that sort of knowledge on to the next wave of people,” Yeo said. “The way you treat people, the way you treat a guy like Ratcliffe when he’s coming up, now, a few years down the road, a [Travis] Konecny is going to do the same thing for a young player, and so on.”