Family matters for Flyers' Briere, Giroux

Posted: January 18, 2011

IT SOUNDS like a sitcom.

It would make a helluva reality show.

"Three boys, two dogs and two hockey players," I said to Danny Briere after Flyers practice yesterday. "Whaddaya think?"

"Five hockey players," Briere corrected. "The kids play, too. There's not a day of the week when there's no hockey. Every single day of the week, there's at least one practice."

That's in addition to getting his three young sons to and from school, feeding and walking Zoey the bulldog and Zora the Boston terrier, and keeping Briere's large South Jersey house, which he held on to after splitting with his wife last year, tidy.

So why would Claude Giroux, 23-year-old bachelor and budding star, want in on that?

"I was living by myself," he said. "Sometimes it's lonely and you don't have much to do.

"That's not a problem now."

No, sirree. Briere's three boys, ages 9 through 12, spend a good chunk of time at the house when the team is home, and tonight's game against the Washington Capitals begins a 10-game stretch in which eight will be played at the Wells Fargo Center.

That's more than 2 weeks' worth of great reality television. Established star, emerging star, Caelan, Carson and Cameron, Zoey and Zora.

If only they would all agree to do it.

In our last episode, for example, Claude decided the guest room adjacent to his needed some upgrades, including a new mattress. Danny needed some things for the boys' rooms as well, so off they went, together, to Raymour & Flanigan.

"They see us come in together, shopping for furniture together," Briere said. "And they're, like, two Flyers shopping together? For furniture? And they started laughing. They said, 'You guys are just like a couple.' "

There are significant differences, of course. Briere is 33, in his 13th season as an NHL player, one of his best so far. He has scored 24 goals and is tied with Mike Richards for the club lead with 40 points.

One point behind is the playmaking Giroux, who in 2 short years has gone from a guy often mistaken for a stick boy to one of the more popular Flyers - in every sense of the word.

"We have rules," Briere said with a smirk. "Especially when the boys have school the next day."

Truth is, that as young, rich, bachelor athletes go, Giroux is no Joe Willie. He likes the domestic setup in the Briere household, likes his status as de facto uncle, even if the kids just call him "Claude." Moved from his small town to Ottawa to pursue his career in his early teens, he may even be getting a glimpse of what he had to forgo to chase his dream.

"They're fun, they love hockey," he said of Briere's boys. "We sure play a lot of that. It's just fun to be around them."

Said Briere: "He's been great. The kids love him. The difference in age between him and my oldest is, really, the same as between me and him."

Which swings both ways. Yes, Giroux is an elite-level player, but his bedroom resembles the kids' rooms more than it does Briere's. "I take care of the house, he takes care of his room," said the homeowner. "If I could take a picture, though, I don't think he would like it."

Episode 2 perhaps?

"Honestly, I have no complaints," Briere said. "I don't care how messy his room is. I've had three boys. Plus, around the house he's great."

Outside, he's pretty helpful, too. Briere's wife is still in the area, still involved in raising the kids. But there have been holes in the coverage, times when the kids needed a lift from school.

Enter Uncle Claude.

"The kids get more excited when he comes to get them than when I do," Briere said.

"It's kind of win/win for us both," Giroux said. "We're having a lot of fun with the kids. And it keeps us busy for sure."

The two now travel to practice together, to the airport together, even go out to dinner from time to time. Giroux said Briere's experience as a young star has been invaluable to him as he deals with his increasing popularity.

Is it a coincidence that both are doing well? Giroux is the Flyers' lone All-Star, and Briere is the league's most famous All-Star snub. And while the two players might have different styles, Briere said they see the game the same and are able to bounce things off each other.

This is for sure.

The living arrangement hasn't gotten in their way.

Professionally . . .

And personally.

"You still like him then?" someone asked Briere.

"Of course," he said, smiling. "I have no choice." *

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