Claude Giroux named Flyers' captain

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux says he's honored to be named captain.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux says he's honored to be named captain.
Posted: January 17, 2013

WHEN CLAUDE Giroux arrived as an emergency call-up for his first NHL game in Ottawa on Feb. 19, 2008, the highly touted first-round pick was skinny and shy, deferring to his elders.

When Giroux steps on the ice on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, an iconic 'C' will be threaded onto his familiar orange sweater.

Fewer than 5 years have passed, but the Flyers are his team now.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren officially anointed Giroux as the 19th captain in franchise history, the team announced on Tuesday night.

Giroux was the obvious choice to replace Chris Pronger, who was named captain on Sept. 16, 2011, but will not be making a comeback from concussion-like symptoms.

Giroux will head a leadership team filled with experienced veterans. Kimmo Timonen will be the associate captain, while Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell will be alternates.

"Claude is the undisputed leader of this team," Holmgren said in a statement. "He always exhibits a tremendous work ethic in games and practices. He is a great professional both on and off the ice."

Giroux, 25, is the fifth-youngest player to be named captain in team history - following Eric Lindros (21), Bobby Clarke (23) and Mike Richards (23), and Mel Bridgman (24). Holmgren said being around leaders like Richards, Timonen, Briere, Pronger and others influenced Giroux.

His teammates have no concern about his leadership capabilities. Giroux will bring important stability to a position that has changed jerseys six times since 2006.

"Twenty-five is not young in the NHL anymore," Hartnell said. "He's almost done his second contract. We have superstars in this league who are a lot younger than him. He's played enough games now [285] to know how it works in [the locker room] and to know how to make it count. That's what you want in a leader.

"I couldn't think of a better player to be our captain."

Observers of other sports tend to mock hockey for the onus placed on a captain. Yet, in hockey, the role extends far further than tradition or a letter on the jersey. It is a solemn, almost holy distinction that is taken seriously.

The captain represents the team in every manner, acts as a conduit to the coaching staff, and answers for not only his mistakes and shortcomings but those of his teammates.

Giroux tends to lead more by example than anything else, but a brief glimpse into the Flyers' locker room as provided by HBO's "24/7" documentary showed a fiery and scrappy player who also just happens to be the most talented. TSN recently named Giroux No. 3 on its list of the top 50 players in hockey.

Giroux collected 93 points last season, the most by a Flyer since 1998-99, and finished fourth in Hart Trophy balloting as league MVP.

Never was Giroux's heart more on display than in that nowlegendary first shift of Game 6 of the conference quarterfinals against Pittsburgh last spring. He railroaded Sidney Crosby in front of the Penguins' bench, scooped the puck and scored 32 seconds into the game to lead a 5-1 Flyers' rout and prevent a Game 7.

"What really impresses me about Claude is that he fights for everything out there," coach Peter Laviolette said last year. "At the end of the night, he is spent. His compete level and determination are tremendous. He gives it everything he's got every night. He's fighting for every inch of ice that he can get in every puck battle. He wants to win."

"If everyone here played with half as much heart as he does," Hartnell said, "we'd be fine."

It was almost 2 years ago that Pronger, then the de facto captain under Richards, was caught chiding Giroux loudly in a hallway near the Flyers' locker room after a loss for his "never-ending turnovers." Giroux has had plenty of examples as to which leadership styles work and do not work.

Former roommate and close friend Brayden Schenn said Giroux is "a natural leader."

"When he speaks, everyone listens," Schenn said. "There is no one on our team who wants to win more."

Giroux has long been rumored to be the Flyers' choice for captain, and he has always insisted that his humble personality will be the same as it always has been.

"Obviously, this is a huge honor," Giroux said in a statement. "There have been a lot of great captains here in the past. Along with this comes a lot of responsibility which I am prepared for. Being named captain is not really going to change the way I play on the ice and act off the ice. But I am very excited about this opportunity."

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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