It all started in 2006 when then-GM Bobby Clarke famously forgot the name of a then 18-year old Claude Giroux as he was drafted to the Flyers. 15 years later, Giroux stepped on the same ice that he had spent his entire NHL career on. But something was different this time.
It was the familiar #28 on the back of Giroux’s jersey. But it wasn’t the orange and black fans have loved over the years. Instead it was white, black, and red of the Ottawa Senators. It was the first time Giroux stepped on the ice as a visitor, but he was given the same reaction that he always yields.
When Lou Nolan announced the starting lineup, he saved Giroux’s name for last. And the crowd reacted accordingly, erupting in cheers and letting the famous “Rouxs” fill the arena. It was a similar reaction as the Flyers honored Giroux afterwards with a tribute video that featured numerous moments throughout his Philadelphia career.
"”That video…I wish they would have shown that video at the end of the game since I had to see the video then go for a shift right away. That was tough.”"
There was the moment of Clarke forgetting his name. There was his first NHL goal. There was his overtime goal during the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. There was the moment he was named the 19th captain in franchise history. And of course, who could forget “The Shift” against the Penguins in the 2012 playoffs.
It ended with the final moments of Giroux as a Flyer, enjoying one last moment in the locker room with his now former teammates.
When Giroux was traded to the Panthers, there wasn’t another game scheduled between the two teams. Florida was headed to the playoffs as the Flyers were crawling towards the finish line of another dreadful season. One that saw the team having to make the tough decision to trade one of the longest tenured athletes in the city at the time.
So while the Philadelphia chapter was complete for him at that moment, it wouldn’t really be over until he took the ice against the Flyers. Giroux signed a three year deal with Ottawa on the opening day of free agency. He had these games circled on the calendar since the schedule was released.
And while the Flyers visited Ottawa a week prior to this game, it was different. It served as merely the appetizer for what a game against Philadelphia would be like. Stepping into the arena he called home for so long held a different feeling now. It was enemy territory. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t nice to see familiar faces.
"“I was expecting to get booed a little bit more, but like I said, I have never done this before coming back to a team that you played for a long time. Just coming in the building and seeing people that work here, faces that I have seen for fourteen years. Just great people.”"
After what Giroux described as “feeling awkward” during the standing ovation the crowd gave him, it was all business from there. He didn’t show out against his former team, but he played a role in their victory nonetheless. He sprung Thomas Chabot for Ottawa’s first goal. And his “accidental” pass off the end boards ended in Alex DeBrincat’s second power play goal.
Giroux claimed that his pass was supposed to go to Derick Brassard and it had nothing to do with a possible extensive knowledge of how the boards work at the Wells Fargo Center. He did admit all of this with a smile on his face so who’s to say what may have really happened. But it was an important win for Ottawa and finally served as a bit of an ending to Giroux’s time in Philadelphia.
His former teammates won’t have much to say after the loss, but they know the influence he had on them and this team. Travis Konecny being one of them. He was fortunate enough to play on a line with Giroux and it’s something he is extremely thankful for.
"“There was a number of guys that really brought me in and showed me the way, G definitely being one of the head guys in that. I always tell him, I credit a lot of my career so far to him. A lot of those seasons where I had success was from playing with G. Obviously I can’t repay him for that but I’m always thankful for what he’s done for me.” Travis Konecny said on Wednesday."
Carter Hart could also appreciate the competitive nature that Giroux brought day in and day out. He was someone that you had to go back at with the same mentality. It’s something that made him a great leader.
"“That’s why he’s a leader, he wants to win. Night in and night out, he works hard. I know the young guys in Ottawa, they’ve got a young team, he’s a good veteran guy to have around for them.” Hart said on Wednesday."
Hart added that they all wish him the best of luck…except when he plays them. Unfortunately that last part didn’t go well in this one. But going back to the reaction, nothing will ever touch the ovation the fan base gave their former captain when he returned for the first time. The respect will always be there as Giroux holds the same feeling as well.
"“It’s great to have. I respect this fan base so much, this organization, the players that play on that team. It definitely felt pretty good.”"
It’s not a place he will soon forget, but there will no longer be a first game at the WFC. It will just be another game in an 82-game season. This game will be one that he will never forget, but now it’s all about what he is building with his new teammates in Ottawa.
"“I think for closure and moving on, it’s easy to say ‘cut the cord,’ but I feel like this game helped. I’m happy where I am. I love my teammates, the organization, the city. I’m all in.”"
Things may die down the next time he returns, but no one will ever forget what Claude Giroux meant to this organization. That will be felt for a long time.