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2006 NHL Entry Draft Portraits Harry How/Getty Images for NHL

The Claude Giroux Era lives in all of us

A mosaic of two lives through 999 games.

NHL Game 1

It is February 19, 2008; the political thriller Vantage Point starring Forest Whitaker, Dennis Quaid, and Matthew Fox is the number one movie in America and you could pay $7 to see it; Michael Nutter has recently been sworn in as Philadelphia’s 98th mayor; and Claude Giroux makes his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators. He plays 9:27 minutes and does not register a point on the scoresheet. He is on the ice for one goal against. Despite goals from Kimmo Timonen and Scottie Upshall, the Flyers lose to the Senators 3-2.

I have no recollection of this game. I am in high school at the time and the game is a Thursday. It’s likely that I watch with my family, but that is unconfirmed.

Philadelphia Flyers v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 2

Giroux plays in the next Flyers game, another loss, this time to the San Jose Sharks. He once again plays less than 10:00 minutes, registers no points, and the Flyers allow a goal against during his ice time. It is the last Flyers’ game of the season that Giroux will play in. It is the first NHL game he plays in Philadelphia.

I am 16 years old. I again have no recollection of Claude Giroux in this game. Just a few days later, I would share my first kiss with my then-girlfriend in the street outside of the Bugliaro’s Manito Road home. We stand in the dark together under the auspices of me cracking her back. Neither present party acknowledges that they both know this is simply an excuse for physical touch, which leads exactly to its intended conclusion.

Game 5

Claude Giroux made his 2008-09 season debut on December 26, 2008. It is now December 30 and he plays over 20:00 minutes, takes two shots on net, and scores his first NHL point—an assist to Jeff Carter on the game’s opening goal. The Flyers defeat the Canucks 3-2 in Vancouver. After starting the season in the AHL with the Philadelphia Phantoms, Giroux’s season debut cements his place in the big leagues. He will not play another AHL game for the rest of his career.

One day later, I am in a basement in New Jersey, just a few hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean. It is New Year’s Eve and we are listening to Abbey Road, Bat Out of Hell, Born to Run on Paul’s record player.

New Year’s Eve when you’re a kid is watching the ball drop on TV and then going outside banging pots and pans. As an adult, it’s finding the right bar or the right band, a champagne toast, and a kiss.

At this age, we are still basically children, though. This is the first New Year’s Eve I am not spending at home. Because of that weird intersection between these two binaries that is teenagehood, we just watch the festivities on TV and listen to records, the adult party raging on upstairs.

With ten minutes left, we realize we have no plan for midnight. We don’t care that much for the television, none of us has anyone to kiss, and we feel too old for the novelty of the pots and pans.

Suddenly, we realize what we have to do. We are Jersey Shore-raised—we’re permanent people in a temporary place, we’re still here when everyone else leaves. The ocean is our home.

I turn around to look at the alarm clock radio’s red digits—five minutes until midnight—and then back at him.

We don’t consider it past that. We climb out the cellar steps and into the night, taking off down the street. The others follow, racing down the center of Beacon Boulevard, kicking off shoes and ripping off pants, articles of clothing strewn across the concrete. I feel the cold winter air against my face as I sprint, other faces next to mine. I feel infinite and finite at the same time; like myself and the rest of the earth; like I was born for this. I let out a loud yell and the sub-freezing air turns my war cry into steam. Behind me come responses. Our voices become a moonlight rhapsody of rough and acidic and screeching explosions.

I will go on to spend last nights of the year in Hoboken, packed into crowded bars, cheating at skee ball; I will spend one at the Dolphin on Broad Street in Philly and another at Ortlieb’s on North 3rd. I will spend it with friends, family, spend it asleep, once at a wedding where both my wife and I are in the bridal party. This sprint—a prelapsarian act in a postlapsarian world—is my magnum opus of New Year’s Eves.

We run up to the boardwalk and hop over the railings. “How much time?” I shout to no one in particular.

“Two minutes to midnight,” someone read off their watch.

We run across the sand and plunge into the dark of the waves. The cold does nothing that I had expected it would, it exhilarates me instead. My legs kick and my arms flail, not in a helpless motion, but in a grandiose acceptance of the ocean’s unsurpassed immensity.

Game 100

It is February 6, 2010: the day of Claude Giroux’s 100th career NHL game. The Flyers lose to the Wild 2-1. Their lone goal is scored by Daniel Carcillo with assists from Braydon Coburn and Simon Gagne.

Philadelphia Flyers v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

NHL Playoff Game 18

In the Flyers’ second playoff run with Claude Giroux on their roster, they meet the Boston Bruins in the second round. After falling down 3-0, they complete a comeback on May 14, 2010, winning both the series and the final game by a score of 4-3. Giroux plays top line minutes and records an assist on the Flyers’ first goal, which comes after the Bruins have already scored three. The Flyers would then score the next three, with Simon Gagne’s series winner coming on the power play after a too many men penalty on Boston. They then go on to defeat the Montreal Canadiens in five games to set up a match-up with the Chicago Blackhawks for the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Giroux scores 21 points in 23 games during this playoff run, finishing third on the team behind Daniel Briere’s 30 points and Mike Richards’ 23. He scores 4 points in the six-game final, including the overtime game winner—a beautiful deflection off a shot from Matt Carle— in Game 3 in Philadelphia.

I watch this entire playoff run from my dorm room just 20 minutes south of Boston. I am surrounded by Bruins fans. I get into arguments with them during classes, I run to the cafeteria in between periods to take out dinner so I don’t miss a beat, I wear my Mike Richards jersey around campus even when the Flyers were down three games. I wear it even more once the Bruins have been eliminated.

Game 209

The opening game of the 2011-12 season comes on October 6. Claude Giroux is coming off a huge breakout season where he finished third in the NHL in points with 93 and second in assists with 65. This is the first game since a massive overhaul of the Flyers’ roster in the offseason. Giroux’s big season gives management the confidence that he can be the team’s top line center, but their second round exit at the hands of the Bruins does not give them confidence in the team’s goaltending. General manager Paul Holmgren has traded away captain Mike Richards and 30-goal scorer Jeff Carter, and the Flyers team that steps onto the ice to face the Boston Bruins looks very different than it did just a few months ago when the Bruins eliminated them.

This is the Flyers’ debut of Jakub Voráček, Wayne Simmonds, Jaromir Jágr, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and Ilya Bryzgalov. These players join Giroux and will become a large part of the next decade of Philadelphia hockey. Over the next 10 seasons, Voráček will assist on 96 of Giroux’s regular season goals, Giroux will assist on 78 of Voráček’s goals, and during this span of time, they will combine for 400 goals and 912 assists for a total of 1,312 points. There are only two pairs of teammates who will combine for a higher point total during this decade: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Bäckström.

On this night, both Giroux and Voráček score goals, powering the Flyers to a 2-1 win in Boston. Giroux’s goal is assisted by Jágr and Chris Pronger. Voráček’s is assisted by Wayne Simmonds and Andrej Meszaros. Voráček’s ties the game and Giroux’s wins it.

Detroit Red Wings v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 261

It is February 16, 2012 and the Flyers are 32-18-7 coming into a game in Philadelphia against the Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers win 7-2, with Claude Giroux assisting on 5 of the Flyers’ goals. It is his career high for points in a game and for assists in a game. It’s the second-most assists in a game by a Flyer, behind only Eric Lindros’ 6-assist game in February of 1997.

Playoff Game 44

On April 22, 2012, the Flyers are playing Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, already up 3-2 on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game is in the Wells Fargo Center and serves as the topper on a very wild playoff series. Twice this series, the Flyers have scored 8 goals in a game; once in the series they allowed 10. Seemingly every game comes with multiple fights and scrums, including one in Game 3 between Giroux and Sidney Crosby.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Six Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The game begins and Giroux simply decides that his team will not lose. Off the opening face-off, Giroux lays what ends up being the most memorable hit of his career, blasting Sidney Crosby to the ice the first time he touches the puck. After a quick whistle, both top lines stay on the ice and Giroux scores just 32 seconds into the game. Evgeni Malkin’s unassisted power play goal in the second period is the only Penguins’ goal of the night and the Flyers win 5-1, taking the series in six games.

For many Flyers fans, myself included, this is Claude Giroux’s origin story. Of course he had us hyped up after a 93-point season at age 23, but this was a whole different feeling. This felt like the start of something else entirely. Giroux scored 17 points in 10 games during the 2012 postseason, and his 8 playoff goals led the entire league despite his team losing to the Devils before even reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.

You’ve already seen this video a few thousand times, but please feel free to watch it again, to feel the hope and optimism of 2012 again, to turn off your brain and imagine the many possible branches that the universe could have taken following this moment but did not. Something like this video does not happen by accident. Nobody scores 55 points in their first 50 playoff games as a result of luck or coincidence.

DEL Game 1

Eisbaeren Berlin v Koelner Haie - DEL Photo by Matthias Kern/Bongarts/Getty Images

It is October 12, 2012, and the NHLPA is currently on strike. Claude Giroux has joined his good friend and former landlord Daniel Briere on the Berlin Polar Bears of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany’s top hockey league. Giroux scores a goal and two assists and takes a penalty in his first game of the season. Berlin loses 6-5 to Kölner Haie. Giroux will play in 9 games before sustaining an injury and returning to North America to rest up and wait out the lockout.

A few months later, on January 15, 2013, he is named the 19th captain in Philadelphia Flyers history. The Flyers had played most of the previous season without a captain following Chris Pronger’s career ending injury-filled season that included multiple concussions and a stick to the eye.

Giroux was the obvious choice for Pronger’s successor here, and has since played more seasons, spent more time, and played more games as the Flyers’ captain than anyone in history.

Game 368

It is December 19, 2013. The NHL season is almost at its mid-way point. The Flyers are taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets in Philly on the first leg of a home-and-home. With less than 5:00 minutes to go in the game, the Flyers are down two goals. At the 15:21 mark, Erik Gustaffson scores a goal assisted by Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux to cut the deficit to one. Then, around a minute later, Claude Giroux scores his eighth goal of the season to tie the game.

Then, with less than two minutes left in a tie game, Mark Streit fires a point shot towards Columbus goaltender Curtis McElhinney that Giroux attempts to deflect in. It instead bounces off the back boards and Giroux positions himself with his back to defender David Savard, allowing the puck to slide onto his stick with no avenue for Savard to make a play on it. With the puck on his stick for a brief moment just a few feet from the goal line, Giroux flicks the puck with the backhand side of his stick while simultaneously receiving a shove in the back from Savard. The puck beats McElhinney cleanly up high and before anyone on the Blue Jackets knows what has happened, Giroux has scored one of the most entertaining and most skillful goals in Flyers—and NHL—history. It is also his 100th career goal.

Game 412

It is April 8, 2014 and the Flyers are in Sunrise, Florida, taking on the Florida Panthers. Claude Giroux scores his 26th and 27th—the eventual game-winner—goals of the season en route to a 5-2 Flyers win.

I do not watch the game. I am still in Massachusetts and Flyers broadcasts are frequently unavailable to me. Besides, it is a Saturday and there’s a party going on at my house. I live in a townhouse with 11 other guys and 12 girls. The house is throwing a surprise party for someone else whose birthday is in two weeks; mine is tomorrow. I have absolutely no problem with this. In fact, this situation is ideal. I get to drink and dance and have fun with my friends without it being about me. I don’t even mention it and only a few people even realize it.

One of my housemates is the president of the campus radio station, giving him access to some large speakers and equipment. The speakers are all set up and we dance all night. It is a very good night. So good that I don’t realize how much time has passed when someone comes to shut us down at 2 a.m.

It is now technically my birthday. I am suddenly compelled to request a song. I beg for “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen, but they do not give in. Maybe I should act indignant that nobody knew we just threw a surprise party for someone else on my actual birthday. But my song does not play. The radio station president, who is not really supposed to be using the equipment for personal parties, does the responsible thing and packs it all away. I feel dejected as the party clears away and Clarence Clemons’ saxophone solo has not found its way into my ears.

But those few friends who knew and overheard my pleas to the officers go upstairs to a room and queue it up. They call me in and hit play as I enter. I feel lucky to live with people who pay enough attention to me to realize how much I will love having a secret little dance party to one song after hours. The five of them watch amused as I light up and pull my roommate, a fellow New Jerseyan at this Massachusetts college, up to dance and sing with me.

My opinion on the greatest song ever changes a lot: most often it’s “Allison” by Elvis Costello, but there are a handful of other songs that, when they end, I immediately think, “That’s got to be the greatest song ever.” Usually it’s after a live performance right in front of me or in its place as part of a larger album. Which also frequently makes me wonder what the greatest rendition of the greatest song ever is. “Thunder Road” is a song I’ve sung passionately to on beaches, in stadiums, at weddings, on the parkway, with friends, with strangers. Sometimes it finishes and I think, “That’s got to be the best song of all time,” as I have with many others. This time, though it was just an MP3 of the studio recording played on desktop speakers accompanied by two liquor-throated, tone deaf college seniors, it finishes and I think that has to be the best rendition of the best song of all time.

Game 554

It is February 27, 2016 and the Flyers are in the playoff hunt as the trade deadline approaches. They are hosting the Arizona Coyotes and with the game tied at a goal apiece in the first period Antoine Vermette takes a hooking penalty, putting the Flyers up on the man advantage. Still in the first half of the power play, Mark Streit takes the puck from the tip of the umbrella and slides it across to Claude Giroux who is near the top of the circle. He fakes the one-timer, looks for a pass, and then wrists the puck cleanly into the net with help from a screening Wayne Simmonds.

It is Giroux’s 500th career point. He now has 161 goals and 339 assists. The Flyers will go on to win the game 4-2.

Arizona Coyotes v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 595

It is Thanksgiving morning in 2016. I wake up nervous, not because I think she’s going to say no, but just because I want everything to work out.

She was a do-gooder in high school. I know because I was there. She refused to play the Sloan to my Ferris, turned down joyrides to the beach during class, went to the cafeteria during lunch and to the Jack Nicholson Theatre during study hall, and never once forged her parents’ signatures. Her favorite day of the year is Thanksgiving because of the family, the kindness, the food. I love it, too, for those reasons, and for the holiday in our hometown.

On the day before, there’s a pep rally at school. The students build floats and parade down Main Street to Mallard Park, where they take them apart and burn them in a big bonfire in right field. The next day the school plays Wall High School in football in a classic red vs. blue rivalry between the two disparately sized boroughs. The game that was played when we were seniors in high school remains one of the greatest I’ve ever seen live or televised. It was a double-OT thriller that involved huge plays, some extracurricular tussles, snowfall, and a packed crowd.

Now, in 2016, there is a ring hidden in the locker that we shared for part of our high school careers. I wanted to bring it back to where we began, and I couldn’t lift up the manhole on Manito Road outside the Buglario’s house. I had approached the vice principal to help me out; he placed the ring in the locker the night before. His plan was to open the locker and remove all the stuff that was currently in it, which to me was hilarious but unnecessary. We lucked out, though, because it turned out that the locker was empty, was maybe waiting for someone like me to come along and make it feel like more than just a high school locker.

During the game we sneak inside for what she thinks was just a nostalgic trip down the “new wing”—which is what everyone calls it, and has since it was built in the ‘80s. The do-gooder in her is seeping out the entire time, even though we are 25 years old.

“We shouldn’t be in here,” she keeps saying.

“The door was unlocked,” I say in response.

She feels like we are going to get caught and kicked out. She can’t remember which of two lockers had been hers, though truthfully, neither do I. But I do know which one the ring is in.

She remains apprehensive. Much more Cameron than Sloan. “We can’t just go through some kids’ locker. What if they have private stuff in there?”

We both remember the original locker combination (0-30-8), though it has since been changed. It obviously doesn’t work when she tries it. So I pretend like she did it wrong and secretly read the real combination that the vice principal had given me off the sharpie on my arm under my sleeve and swing the door to no. 1631 open.

Even after the metal door clanks open, she backs away. The locker is completely empty except for the small box on the top shelf, almost indistinguishable from the shadowed insides of the locker surrounding it. After some urging, she finally reaches her hand inside and picks it up.

Even still, she hasn’t put it all together. As if planning on getting married were a detention-able act, she looks over both her shoulders after her acceptance.

We then sit down on the floor, backs against the lockers like we are 16 again, sharing a snack, waiting for the first bell to ring. A decade earlier we probably would have started on opposite sides of the hallway, facing each other, her gawky long legs tangled up below her as I scrambled to copy her homework. The door at the end of the hallway opens and she jumps up, ready to act innocent, and nudges me to come up with some sort of lie. But the vice principal doesn’t need an explanation. He offers to take our picture instead.

Just one day earlier, the Flyers lose to the Lightning 4-2. Claude Giroux does not score a point and spends 4:00 minutes in the penalty box, once for hooking and once for tripping. I watch the game on mute from the corner of my eye at the bar on Main Street.

Game 637

It is March 2, 2017. I am transcribing an interview for a piece about the Tibet Women’s Soccer team while watching the Flyers play the Florida Panthers. My now-fiance and I have lived in our first apartment in Ocean Grove, New Jersey for about six months. It has a view of Wesley Lake and Asbury Park to the north and the old abandoned Warrington Hotel to the west. I finally finish the transcription and finish writing the piece, submitting in time to watch the overtime period more intently. The Flyers, having tied the game at one goal apiece in the second half of the third period, play Florida to a stalemate in the 3-on-3 period. In the shootout, Steve Mason stops all three Panther shooters, meaning that despite Claude Giroux’s unsuccessful attempt, either one of Jake Voráček or Jordan Weal’s goals would have won the game for them. I go to sleep immediately after the game ends.

It is almost 5 a.m. I toss and turn, mouth dry and keeping me awake. One snoozed alarm, two, the room suddenly bright, too bright to match the time of the alarm. I jump up and see and think ‘the Warrington’s on fire, we need to call somebody,’ but then the windows, our windows, shatter and something in the next room crashes and there are sirens somewhere. What do I bring? Phone, computer, if the lights were on it’d be easier to see the black cats, but the power to the building has been shut off. They run through my hands, out from under furniture I toss aside, around falling pieces of roof, into closets. Down the steps, into a block of smoke, we feel our way to the door. A policewoman asks if we’re ok. I forget where I parked the car. We run to the beach, where ashes fall into the ocean and light the sky like the sun will in a few hours.

Game 640

It is March 9, 2017. Earlier in the year, we had planned a trip to Toronto to see the Flyers play the Maple Leafs, check out the Hockey Hall of Fame, and hit up Niagara Falls on the way back. After the fire that destroyed all of our things and displaced us from our first apartment less than a week earlier, we weren’t sure if we were still going to go on the trip. But we do. After all, we have already paid for it and I was able to fish our passports out of the pieces of wood that had been a dresser, so we go.

NHL: MAR 09 Flyers at Maple Leafs Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We end up sitting next to another Flyers fan. He’s from St. Catharines and has never seen the Flyers play in person. He’s there with his Maple Leafs fan friend. We talk about how he came to root for the Flyers even though he’d never been to Philly. He asks us about our own lives. We talk about my father, who was born in Philadelphia, and what it’s like there.

Claude Giroux assists on Wayne Simmonds’ opening power play goal. The Leafs score the next three, though. Freddie Andersen makes a huge stop on Giroux on another Flyers’ power play in the third, and eventually, the Flyers break through again to make things close, this time from Shayne Gostisbehere. The Flyers pull Michal Neuvirth to make a go of things, but Nazem Kadri pots an empty netter to seal the game for the Leafs.

The next day, we make our visit to Niagara Falls and then wander into the Rainforest Cafe on the Canadian side of the border. It would be easy to act jaded in a place like the dining room of the Rainforest Cafe on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It’s at the bottom of a neon hill, a miniature Vegas strip so bright from the wax museum, the arcade, the miniature golf, the hulking and decaying dinosaur models, that it could never fully be night.

And in fact, while we sat waiting for our food, we were acting a little jaded. Less than a week after the fire, we stop into the Amazon-themed gimmick as the last of an all-out tourist blitz of the connection between lakes Erie and Ontario, confronted with the cheeriest of Canadian waitresses.

“Ok, perfect!” she says after each thing we ordered. “For sure!” after each additional question. She returns to the table like she’s personally caused me harm to apologize and tell me they are out of the Bailey’s Boa, a fancy alcoholic drink with Bailey’s Irish cream—an order in the same vein as the “aw fuck it” attitude that brought us here in the first place. Earlier that day we had stood in the cold, me bundled in winter clothes that my uncle showed up with when he heard I didn’t have any and her in the clothes that had been in the dryer, which, though smaller than most, stood up well pitted against flames and falling ceilings, watching water fall from one spot up to another. Then we paid the $13 ticket—discounted because of some construction—to stand behind the water as it fell. They let us watch it for as long as we wanted to for just the $13.

At some point, though, our jokes about the impeccable etiquette of our neighbors to the north aside, my “fuck it” softens into a different intonation on that same phrase. It is less about a distanced mocking, less jaded, and more about accepting the absurdity of sitting in a re-creation of a jungle less than a mile from one of the more magnificent natural wonders on the planet. It’s easy to look down on all these people, who didn’t have to force themselves into “fuck it” mode to enjoy a tacky, overpriced tourist restaurant, they are just enjoying it. Fuck it, why not accept absurdity when it comes and just enjoy what we can.

I think that switch flips during one of the many birthday announcements. Every few minutes, one of the servers, clad in park ranger gear, announces to everyone that it is Jason’s fourth birthday! On the count of three, everybody wish him a happy birthday! Happy birthday, Jason! I stop enjoying the background animal sounds and Amazonian setting ironically and start really enjoying it. And everyone at Jason’s table smiles and claps. Maybe these servers’ jubilance is put-on, but to me it is now infectious. I think back to the restaurant we went to on my last birthday, where the server gave us our red velvet fried Oreos and said, “We don’t sing, but happy birthday.” I mean, it was nice to say, but singing is nice, too. I like to sing, even though I’m not great. I’m a karaoke hog, an enthusiastic caroller, and a steering wheel rockstar. I’ll even sing if I somehow end up in a church during a mass without burning up. I sing along each time it is somebody’s birthday at the Rainforest Cafe on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, even when it is so far on the other end of the dining room I don’t know what name to sing.

Game 657

It is October 4, 2017. My fiancé and I have uprooted our lives from the only place we’d ever known to strike out on our own in the city of Philadelphia. It’s the place my father was born in, and his father before him. We moved into a small one-bedroom apartment on Germantown Avenue less than a month earlier, and now we sit down with cheesesteaks from Dalessandro’s and a beer in my Flyers mug to watch the 2017-18 season opener. Claude Giroux scores the game and season-opening goal off an assist from Jake Voráček. It’s the first of what will be a career-high 34 goals this season. Wayne Simmonds scores a hat trick and the Flyers defeat the Sharks 5-3 in San Jose.

Game 701

It is January 18, 2018 and Claude Giroux plays just over 20:00 without recording a point in a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Philadelphia. Before the game, the Flyers honor Eric Lindros by raising his number 88 into the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center.

Minnesota Wild v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 705

It is January 28, 2018 and the Flyers do not play today. Three days prior, they lost by four to the Tampa Bay Lightning, with Claude Giroux assisting on the lone Flyers goal. We are married in the afternoon and the table numbers at the reception are not in chronological order, but are instead labeled with notable Flyers’ jersey numbers. There’s a table 88 and a table 17 and a table 7 and a table 1 for the parents (I’m still proud of that one). Ours is 16 and the bridal party is 28.

Game 708

It is February 3, 2018 and the Flyers are playing the Ottawa Senators in Philadelphia. Claude Giroux does not register a point, not even as the third shooter in the shootout. The Flyers lose when Mike Hoffman finally beats Michal Neuvirth on the 12th attempt of the shootout. It does not matter, though, because even though I am watching the game, I am thinking about the Philadelphia Eagles. All of Philadelphia is. The next day, the Eagles take on Tom Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl LII and defeat them 41-33. I watch the Super Bowl from an apartment in Center City, and when the game ends, we flood out onto Broad Street amongst seemingly thousands of other Philadelphians. The weather app says it’s quite cold, but it doesn’t feel cold at all.

Philadelphia Eagles’ Fans Gather To Watch Their Team In Super Bowl LII Against The New England Patriots

Game 738

It is April 7, 2018 and the Flyers are playing their final game of the season. I am in class, so my wife records the game. Claude Giroux enters the game against the Rangers sitting at 99 points on the season. When I get home, she already knows what has happened but keeps pretty mum about it. I watch, and she watches me watch, as Claude Giroux not only notches his 100th point of the season, but scores a hat trick. I am ecstatic. Surely these totals will bring our long undersung captain some league-wide accolades. If not a Hart Trophy win then at least a nomination. He becomes just the 26th player over 30 years old to score 100 points in a season and just one of two players overall to do so in 2017-18. The Flyers are heading to the playoffs and their best player is on fire.

Game 800

It is February 23, 2019 and the Flyers are hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins outdoors at Lincoln Financial Field. The Flyers are down by two late in the third period when James van Riemsdyk scores a power play goal with assists from Jake Voráček and Claude Giroux. Then, with less than a minute, Sean Couturier wins a faceoff in the Penguins offensive zone that Voráček scoops up and floats towards the net. The puck bounces off Matt Murray and flutters into the net, sending the game into overtime.

In the 3-on-3, Nolan Patrick drops the puck to Giroux, who brings it up the ice and into the Penguins’ zone with speed. He makes a move that shakes Justin Schultz so bad he drops his stick and then slides the puck through Murray’s legs. The goal sends some 70,000 Philadelphians, including us from our seats in Section 210, into a frenzy. It is quite possibly the most entertaining hockey game I’ve ever seen live. It is Wayne Simmonds’ last game as a Flyer.

2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series - Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Game 821

It is the day of the 2019-20 season-opening game for the Philadelphia Flyers, and they are taking on the Chicago Blackhawks. I am watching from our apartment on Dauphin Avenue, with a days-old tattoo hoping to bring some luck to the orange and black. It is a plain old Flyers logo, the flying P, on the inside of my left bicep. The Flyers are losing by one and Claude Giroux spends the last two minutes of the game in the penalty box for slashing. In my ink’s inaugural season, the Flyers make it to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. I consider it a win.

Game 889

It is March 10, 2020 and the Flyers come into a game against the Bruins having won their last nine. The Flyers fail to score in this one and lose what will end up being their final game of the season. Claude Giroux, still playing in top form, will lose out on even more games and opportunities to add to his career stats. When he will finally hit the ice again as a member of the Flyers, the world will have changed forever due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

NHL All-Star Game 7

It is February 2, 2022, and Claude Giroux is representing the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas, Nevada. Giroux has been named the captain of the Metropolitan Division team in place of the absent Alex Ovechkin. He scores two goals in the final game as his team defeats the Central Division. He is named All-Star Game MVP and wins some type of car or something. There are some other candidates for the award, but with the Flyers fully out of contention and Giroux’s contract expiring at the end of the season, there is much chatter about a trade, and if the NHL had given it to some twenty-something Devils player, Flyers fans may have rioted (on Twitter).

2022 Honda NHL All-Star Game Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 999

It is March 13, 2022 and the Flyers are taking on the Montreal Canadiens. It has been 5,806 days since Bobby Clarke forgot Claude Giroux’s name while drafting him 22nd overall in 2006. I have been alive for 11,296 days and Giroux has been alive for 12,479. He has been a Flyer for more than half of my lifetime and nearly half of his own. From my teenage years to my impending fatherhood, Claude Giroux has been there.

Here’s to 999 more.

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