A Fitting Farewell for the Flyers Captain
There was a growing sense that Thursday night’s game, the 1,000th for Claude Giroux in his NHL career, all with the Flyers, could be his last in Philadelphia. The trade deadline is looming. The milestone everyone had circled was upon us.
When the dust settled on a wild 5-4 comeback win for the Flyers – with goals by Kevin Hayes and Joel Farabee in the final 4:15 putting the Flyers ahead – the signs were evident of what is to come.
Giroux took his lap around the Wells Fargo Center ice, waved to the crowd, and darted off the ice, only to return for a curtain call, another final lap around as he was named first star of the game, and exited up the tunnel. His teammates all lined up to hug him. The emotion started to show. This felt like the end of an era.
There was plenty more evidence after the players left the ice. Hayes and Farabee met with the media and spoke of the special nature of the game. Farabee said it was the “coolest game I’ve ever been a part of.” Hayes addressed the unknowns of the weekend.
“I was fortunate enough to play three years with him. He’s given everything he has to this organization, and it shows how much he cares and how much he wants to win,” Hayes said. “Even though this season hasn’t gone the way we wanted to, the trade rumors have been swirling about him, he’s handled it professionally, and the correct way just like we all assumed he would. We’re not sure what’s going to happen the next couple of days, but if he does get moved, I’ll have a new team to root for.”
Carter Hart and Travis Sanheim entered the room next, both quite possibly still with the emotions of the private events transpiring in the locker room still on their faces. Both described the night being special. Hart said the fans came out for their captain. Sanheim said it was an honor to witness such a special event for a special player.
Interim head coach Mike Yeo also didn’t shy away from the circumstances. Giroux played every shift as usual until the final 1:55. When Farabee scored the game-winning goal with 1:19 remaining, Giroux was on the bench for the rest of the game. Yeo called it “asset management.”
“I think there would have been an interim to the interim coach if I would have put him out there and he would have blocked a shot,” Yeo said, “so obviously I told him I would have liked to put him out there in a normal situation but I think we had some guys that were capable of doing the job.”
Yeo had told a few stories leading up to the game. When Yeo was hired as an assistant coach, Giroux called him before the news was even released to the public. Yeo also shared a story of how Giroux told Farabee that he was going to break all his records. Perhaps that was foreshadowing Farabee’s contribution to the win.
“Yeah, isn’t that funny? That’s the kind of guy G is. He lifts his teammates. He does so many things both on and off the ice, making people feel good about themselves. You slap a letter on a guy’s jersey and what everybody sees for the most part is the product that is on the ice, but there’s so much more that’s involved in that. I can say that he is…”
Yeo paused for a moment.
“He has been an outstanding captain and obviously a well-deserved tribute to him tonight.”
Then came the man of the hour. Giroux spoke to the media for nearly 10 minutes following the game. He wore his emotions on his sleeve. He spoke about everything from the ceremony to his teammates to the game itself and the moments he experienced on the ice. He was critical of himself and said he didn’t play well. He talked about the fans. He talked about the uncertainty of the future.
If he could have, he would have talked all night.
But if any of Giroux’s words were telling, it was his final response of the night. Three seasons ago, the Flyers played in the 2019 Stadium Series and completed a similar late-game comeback, capped by Giroux’s overtime winner. It was Wayne Simmonds’ final game with the Flyers.
Giroux has been the constant for over a decade. He is the only player from a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 that has remained a member of the Flyers for the 12 seasons that followed. He’s been through this process before, albeit on the other side, watching as teammates packed up and headed elsewhere as the trade deadline hit.
“To be honest, I’ve seen a lot of players that I’ve played with that I liked and I know it’s tough when you leave a team. I actually didn’t realize how tough it is,” Giroux said. “I wish I knew back then. It’s not something that is really fun.”
That’s about as direct a confirmation as you’re going to get from the player himself. That’s a sign of what is almost assuredly to come. But for one final night, Claude Giroux took the ice in Philadelphia and was given a salute he deserved for 1,000 games of service.
“I don’t feel very comfortable with attention like that, but seeing that it was awesome,” Giroux said. “I mean, they’ve been, the fans and the organization, my teammates have been so good to me for so many years and that’s one of the reasons it was pretty emotional after the game and it’s a fun night.”
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.