When public address announcer Lou Nolan read captain Claude Giroux’s name among the starters before Thursday night’s game between the Flyers and the Nashville Predators, for the first time this season, the Wells Fargo Center practically shook.
There hasn’t been much for Flyers fans to celebrate this year, as the team lingers at the bottom of the standings with a month and a half left in the season. Attendance has reflected the team’s struggles. But fans showed up in droves to celebrate Giroux, who joined the organization at age 18, and his 1,000th game.
“I feel like I’ve had a great relationship with the fans and the city,” Giroux said after the game. “I get them, they get me. In the warmups, when I there was a lot of fans in the stands, my first lap, I was trying not to not to fall and just focusing on that.”
Giroux, 34, joined elite company on Thursday night when he became the second player in franchise history to play 1,000 games as a Flyer. Bobby Clarke, who awarded Giroux his silver stick in the pregame ceremony, suited up for 1,144 games in his 15 years with the organization from 1969 to 1984.
“He’s obviously Mr. Flyer,” Giroux said of Clarke. “And since day one for me, he’s the one that drafted me, the one that said my name. Since then, any position he is with the Flyers, he’s always been a great friend. Always there to support me and help me.”
Plenty of former Flyers sent Giroux well-wishes through video messages during the ceremony, including Simon Gagné, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voráček, Paul Holmgren, and Danny Brière. Giroux’s wife, Ryanne, sons, Gavin and Palmer, and parents, Ray and Nicole, also took part in the ceremony. Teammates Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton presented Gavin and Palmer with miniature silver sticks of their own.
“The whole ceremony was great,” Giroux said. “Being able to be with my parents and my wife and my two boys was special. One time I just kind of waved at the crowd to say thanks. And then Gavin decided to do the same thing and I was just kind of cracking up a little bit.”
The pregame ceremony was just one part of the week of celebrations for Giroux. During warmups before the game, each Flyer donned a No. 28 jersey with a “Giroux” nameplate. At the conclusion of practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, his Flyers teammates encouraged Giroux to lead the daily stretch circle.
Giroux’s family attended practice on Wednesday and after practice ended, they hit the ice for a skate with Giroux.
“I thought it was really cool that G had a lot of his family at the Skate Zone the past few practice days,” teammate Joel Farabee said. “I thought that was really cool having his cousins and stuff go on the ice; I saw yesterday was really cool, too. Just having the whole Flyers family celebrate this moment, I think has been really special for him.”
Dating back to the beginning of the league in 1917-18, 365 players have played at least 1,000 games. Of those 365 players, 40 of them have played for only one franchise.
Giroux is among 11 active players who have reached the 1,000-game plateau exclusively with a single team, joining Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings), Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins), Anze Kopitar (Kings), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Marc-Édouard Vlasic (San Jose Sharks), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Nicklas Bäckström (Capitals), and Drew Doughty (Kings).
“To be able to do that with one organization says an awful lot about you and your character as well as your ability to play,” interim coach Mike Yeo said. “So for him as a captain, the entire time with one organization, again, that’s something that’s unique. You don’t see a lot of it.”
The month of March ushered in another accolade for Giroux — his 900th career point. Giroux’s second-period goal against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday helped him reach the milestone. Only Giroux and Clarke (1,210 points) have registered at least 900 points with the Flyers.
The goal against the Canadiens marked the 291st of Giroux’s career, which moved him into sole possession of eighth place in goals in franchise history. He had previously been in a tie with former captain Eric Lindros.
“I think on a day-to-day basis, you get to watch greatness and be a part of that,” Laughton said. “Sometimes you get used to it but it’s something special and something that I’ll definitely never forget.”
Giroux’s 1,000th game celebration, which incorporated all things Giroux from career highlights to his favorite grilled cheese, had a melancholy tinge with the March 21 trade deadline looming. The captain is in the final year of his eight-year, $66.2 million contract and has yet to win a Stanley Cup in his 15-year career.
While Giroux has previously stated that he would like to be a Flyer for life, the team’s poor record combined with his expiring contract makes him an ideal rental candidate for a Stanley Cup contender at the deadline. However, Giroux said he is choosing to concentrate on achieving his latest milestone before addressing his uncertain future.
“I’m trying to focus on playing 1,000 games with the Flyers,” Giroux said. “It’s something I’m proud of. It’s something I’m very happy I got a chance to do this. And after that, it’s gonna be ... [a] change of mindset a little bit and see how things are gonna go.”
Giroux was selected by the Flyers in the first round, 22nd overall in the 2006 NHL draft. He became the franchise’s captain on Jan. 13, 2013 and is the longest-tenured one in team history. Since Giroux earned that role, he has appeared in 715 of a 725 possible games. Five of the 10 missed games occurred when he was in COVID-19 protocol over the last two seasons.
Over the course of his 15-year career with the Flyers, Giroux has established himself as a leader in numerous categories. He’s first in franchise history in power-play assists (255), power-play points (339), and overtime goals (11).
He’s second in assists (609), points (900), and average time on ice per game (19:37, among forwards since 1997-98).