Claude Giroux: Home for the Summer
Claude Giroux is one of the greatest players to ever come out of the National Capital Region.
Giroux is a 5-time NHL All-Star, he has won Gold Medals for Canada at the World Juniors, World Championships and at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
He is also coming off his best season to date, with an incredible 102 points in 2017-2018–finishing 2nd only to Connor McDavid in NHL scoring.
In 2013, he was named Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers–joining the likes of Flyers greats such as Peter Forsberg, Chris Pronger, Eric Lindros and Bobby Clarke.
What endears Giroux to fans in this area is that even with all the success he enjoys with Philadelphia, he still comes home each year to Ottawa in the summer.
Giroux spends his off-seasons here training with Tony Greco and this summer, he will be marrying his long-time girlfriend from Kanata, Ryanne Breton.
As a kid growing up in Hearst, Ontario, was hockey always your favourite sport to play or were you active with other sports? Was there anyone specifically who inspired you to try playing hockey for the first time?
I came from a small town in Hearst. I think hockey was always the priority but in the summer we didn’t have ice, so we played baseball, soccer and pretty much all of the sports we had at school. When I was three years old, my parents put me on skates. It’s funny, I have a sister who’s five years older than me but we–my parents included–all started skating at the same time. We started loving hockey all together. It became a family thing and we really enjoyed it together.
What were some of the major differences you noticed when you moved with your family from Hearst to Ottawa in the summer of 2002?
At first I was a little upset, because I was from a small town and I was comfortable there. When I moved to Ottawa, I didn’t know a lot of people and so the first few months were a little tough. I met friends and moved along. Moving to Ottawa was great for my family and for my career.
You’ve mentioned in the past that you had no other choice but to step up your game when you started playing juniors, as your size forced you to do so if you wanted to keep your spot on that team. What was that entire process like and how supportive was your coach, Benoit Groulx during that transition?
I played for Cumberland when I moved here. I didn’t get drafted in the OHL and that was really hard on me because all I wanted to do was play hockey. It was annoying that it could’ve ended sooner. I played for the Cumberland Grads and I was able to get a tryout with the Gatineau Olympiques, and that motivated me a lot. When I went to the camp, Coach Groulx said I had a good chance of making a team. He really pushed me to be the best I could be. I was kind of a lazy player growing up and he made me become more of a grinder. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun but at the end of the day, I understood why he was so tough with me and I just went with it.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the three seasons you spent playing with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL and what did your accomplished record of fifty-one points in nineteen playoff games mean to you?
When you go up to a level like the juniors, if you don’t produce, if you don’t play well, you’re just not going to play. It’s not like minor hockey where you’re on the team and you’re going to see your ice time no matter what. You really need to earn your ice time and if you put in the work, you’re going to play well and you’re going to play more.
That whole experience in the playoffs, everything went great for us. Our team chemistry was one of the best I had ever seen. We really enjoyed going to the rink together and going to work together for that whole month and a half. I have a lot of good memories from there.
Walk us through that 2006 NHL Entry Draft day where you went 22nd overall to the Philadelphia Flyers? What was your initial reaction and how surreal was that whole experience?
I didn’t think the Flyers were the team that was going to draft me because their history shows they like big guys… fighters, the tough guy roles. I didn’t really see myself in that uniform and when they actually drafted me, I was shocked. It took me about five seconds to realize what was going on.
What are some of your favourite things about the city of Philadelphia? How do you enjoy spending your spare time outside of the arena?
There are a lot of good restaurants. It’s great walking around downtown Philadelphia. There’s a lot to do for sure. I’ve been there for ten years, so I have my favourite spots that I stick to. Another thing I really like about Philly is that they’re a sports town. When I started playing with the Flyers, the Phillies won the World Series, and the Eagles won the Superbowl. The Sixers are looking pretty good right now, too. To be a part of it and to see those other organizations do well, it motivates you to do the same.
Who’s one former teammate that you’ve kept in touch with even after parting ways?
I would say Brayden Schenn. When he got traded from L.A., he was my roommate for one year. We just had good chemistry. He’s a good guy and we still keep in touch.
In December of 2016, you became engaged to your long-time girlfriend, Ryanne Breton. How is life since becoming engaged? How did it feel to finally ask the biggest question of your life?
It’s great. We just built this place. She’s from Kanata so every time we come back in the summer, it feels like home for us.
The engagement is actually a funny story. We were playing the Senators the day after so we flew in. We actually landed in Buffalo because there was something wrong with the plane. We landed here in Ottawa at 8pm. When she came to pick me up, we came here because I said I wanted to see the house. We walked over to the corner of the T.V. room and I asked her to marry me. We went to her place afterwards to meet both of our families to celebrate, it was a great night.
Very few hockey players have the opportunity to play in the NHL. Furthermore, very few NHL players have the opportunity to represent their country in World Championship tournaments. Going back to the 2008 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, what did it mean to you to win a gold medal with Team Canada that year?
It’s funny how everything happened so quickly. I went from trying to make a junior team and the next year, I’m playing on Team Canada. It was amazing. It was so quick that it was hard to really enjoy it. Every day there was so much happening and it was just so exciting. When we won the Gold Medal against Sweden, my sister and parents were there to watch, which was really awesome.
What are some of your favourite memories from your debut with the Flyers in February 2008? After the game, do you remember who the first person you called was and what that conversation was like?
I was actually back in Hearst when I got the call and it was during Christmas. I got a call from Paul Holmgren and he told me that I had been called up and that he was going to meet me in Chicago. I told my family, my friends and buddies obviously. From there, everything happened so quickly. We got there and played, and then we went to Columbus. You just keep moving. It was cool to meet the team on the road, you’re just trying to fit in and trying to find a role. It was halfway through the season, they had their team chemistry. Everybody had their roles. I was jumping in there to see how I could help the team. Luckily my teammates were really great to me, I couldn’t have asked for better teammates back then.
Although the team didn’t make it as far as they would’ve hoped to in the playoffs this year, the Flyers still had lots to be proud of when looking back on their success this season. What are some of the positives that you think the team will carry with them for the 2018-2019 season?
We’re a pretty young team. We have a lot of young talent that’s going to be very good and we have some of core elements, which we’ve had for four or five years. A little bit of both is good, I think. We’re moving forward, we’re building. After the first half of the season, we weren’t in a great position to make the playoffs and then we kind of got our stuff together and started winning hockey games. We had a good record at the end of the season. We’re going to need to build from that, know what we did wrong and do what’s right.
Your individual efforts this season certainly added up, especially when considering the fact that you ranked 2nd overall in points, with 102 on the season. What does this achievement mean to you?
Well I think the two years before that were really tough for the team. At some point, you just want to be able to play well and to help your team. I was able to play with some good players. Sean Couturier and I had great chemistry. It was my first time playing with him even though he had been on the team for seven years. It was a lot of fun playing with him and hopefully next year will be more fun.
Most NHL fans are well aware of the rivalry between the Flyers and the Penguins. What’s your take on the rivalry and how do you think it played a role in the series this year?
For me personally, the rivalry started in my first year in 2009. They beat us in 6 games. 2012 was the best series I remember. There were fights, goals, everything. It was a rivalry that would just get you up ready to go and excited to play hockey.
From your perspective, what are some of the biggest changes between regular season and playoff hockey, and as a Captain, how do you help your teammates make the proper adjustments heading into playoffs?
I think it’s do or die. I strongly believe that when you play against the same team, you often find rivalry between players. Usually, it’s the same matchups on the road and at home, it gets a little more intense. Game 5, 6 and 7 are do or die. You find a way to win or you go home. I know the fans enjoy it but from a player’s perspective, playoff hockey is the best. When you’re on the road, the fans are going to be all over you a little bit. Some guys find motivation out of it and some guys don’t. When you play in another rink where nobody likes you, well I personally like that. It’s a little motivation. If they don’t like you, it usually means you’re doing something well.
If there’s one team that really surprised you this year, in either a good or bad way, who was it and why?
I think Vegas surprised everybody. You don’t expect a team to build that quickly and to develop the chemistry that they had. Playing there was probably my favourite away game of the year. The fans were intense and the atmosphere was just crazy. For them to play all of their home games there and to feel that energy, it definitely boosts you. It’s impressive to see what they were able to accomplish this year.
During the off-season and while you’re back in the Nation’s capital, what are some of your favourite things to do in the area?
When the season’s over, we come back here and we love our summers. I work out with Tony Greco, I play some golf and we go on little vacations here and there. We like the restaurants downtown. We haven’t had a lot of time this summer because of the wedding. I like to play golf through ClubEG. We usually like staying in the backyard by the pool, getting the barbecue going and staying local.
Tell us a little bit about your involvement with Greco Fitness?
When I was seventeen years old, Tony started training me. It was hell. I was a small guy who wasn’t strong. Tony really worked with my mind and he pushed me to want to work harder. Tony’s a very intense guy but sometimes as a player, that’s what you need in your face; someone to tell you that it’s not okay to not work hard. It has been thirteen years and we’ve gotten along the whole time. He’s one of my great friends and he’s a role model to me.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to a junior hockey player looking to pursue a career playing professional hockey?
Just don’t lose the passion of the game. When you play with passion, that’s when you’ll play your best and you’ll be able to do a lot of great things.
Who would you say is one of the toughest players to match up with on face-offs? What changes do you make to adjust accordingly?
I’ve taken a lot of face-offs against Patrice Bergeron. He kind of does the same thing every time but you can’t really find a strategy to battle it. The other guy is Paul Statsny. He’s got a lot of tricks and he’s going to make you think he’s doing one thing while he’s doing something else. That’s the best part of face-offs, just trying to get in the other guy’s head.
What are some of your favourite things about being a captain in the NHL?
That responsibility to the Flyers, it’s just great. It’s such a great organization. It’s been great to me. Going to the rink every day, I have this C but our leadership group is amazing. I think that’s the best part of being Captain, is having assistants or even older guys being in that group with you.