Larose and Giroux share a name and a small town

Montreal's Claude Larose (11) during 1968 playoffs.
Montreal's Claude Larose (11) during 1968 playoffs.
Posted: February 03, 2011

TAMPA - There are two living hockey legends from the unbelievably small Canadian town of Hearst - the furthest drivable town in northern Ontario.

And both of them were in the St. Pete Times Forum on Wednesday night.

One of them, Claude Larose, put French-speaking Hearst on the hockey map by winning five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens from 1965-1973. Flyers forward Claude Giroux, who grew up skating in the town's only hockey arena, which bears Larose's name, keeps the flame alive.

Larose, 68, scouted Tuesday night's Flyers game in Tampa Bay for the Carolina Hurricanes - and rarely makes it back to Hearst, a trip he said is "impossible" during the brutally cold and snow-packed winters - but has had his eye on Giroux for almost 20 years.

Larose, in fact, watched Giroux score his first NHL goal live.

"When he was a kid, everyone told me to watch him," Larose said. "He was the best kid there. I've followed him all the way. When he moved to Ottawa, I asked my brother, who lives there, to follow him. All of my friends from home have followed him.

"We've had a pretty good connection. When you live in a small town like that, you get to know everyone, and I know his family and his grandparents well."

(For a detailed look at life in Hearst and Giroux' upbringing, read our story from Dec. 22 here: http://www.philly.com/girouxhome.)

Last weekend, Giroux - almost 45 years Larose's junior - became just the second NHL All-Star from Hearst (population 6,000), but he still falls short of Larose's four All-Star selections.

"When I met him for the first time, it was special for me," Giroux said. "He is huge to Hearst. It's an honor to be from the same town as him. I think it's pretty special that he follows me."

Larose, who now lives in Coconut Creek, Fla., said he thinks Giroux has made as big an impact on Hearst in his short time in the NHL than he did during his career in the NHL. Back then, not all of the Canadiens' games were available on television. Now, everyone back in Hearst can watch Giroux on a nightly basis.

"He makes a big impact in that town," Larose said. "A lot of people, all of the people that have followed him, are making a trip to Florida [to the Panthers' arena] to watch him in 2 weeks, that's how big he is."

While Giroux may never catch Larose's six Stanley Cups (including the one Larose won with Carolina in 2006 as the team's pro scout) since most of them were earned in a six or 12-team league, Giroux is on pace to shatter Larose's point totals. More importantly, Larose has enjoyed watching Giroux' development from the atypical scout's perspective.

"The way he plays, it's unbelievable," Larose said. "He's very talented. I think the new [NHL] rules really helped his game. He's a slick guy, he's got good hands, he sees the ice well. He's unbelievable in traffic. He had all the tools. I think with the new rules it fits right in with his style of play. He was never a big kid, but he was always the best kid there."

Laviolette knows best

If you needed any additional proof that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette knows what it takes to get the most out of his players, read what he had to say about forward Ville Leino's plus-18 rating this season:

"I don't want this to be construed the wrong way," Laviolette said, "But if Ville were to have a turnover, I'd be OK with that.

"He is a player that needs to be creative to be successful. His structure defensively is good, but his structure offensively is very good."

Leino already has set a career-high with 36 points this season. He never caught on with the Red Wings, who traded him after 42 games last season, because his creative style never fit in with Mike Babcock's system.

Slap shots

The Flyers are 5-2-3-3 against Nashville since the franchise's inception in 1998 . . . Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson told his coach, Guy Boucher, that it was one of their "best games with boxing out and hunting for sticks in front of our net," which enabled Roloson to make all 38 saves against the Flyers Wednesday night . . . Danny Briere missed practice yesterday with what general manager Paul Holmgren called a "maintenance" day . . . Jody Shelley, still fighting off flulike symptoms, returned to practice yesterday after sitting out Tuesday night's game in Tampa . . . Defenseman Oskars Bartulis, who was also on the trip, did not practice yesterday also because of the flu.

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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