Propp, Giroux took similar paths to Flyers’ stardom

Even way back in 2006, the Flyers knew Claude Giroux could be destined for greatness.

Brian Propp and Claude Giroux have more in common than just similar Flyer career point totals.

In addition to being first-round draft picks of the Flyers, both came into the organization when numerous “big-name’’ players garnered all the fan and media attention.

When Propp arrived for the 1979-80 season, most of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Broad Street Bullies were still in place, and until Hall of Famers Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber retired five years later, Propp was seldom in the spotlight.

Likewise, Giroux, who in 2008-09 joined a team loaded with names such as Briere, Carter, Richards, Hartnell and Timonen – a club which was just a year away from reaching the Cup Final.

Eventually that cast moved on and now Giroux, who recently registered his 850th career point to move past Propp into third place on the team’s alltime scoring list, is the longest serving captain in team history.

Propp, 62, can relate to Giroux’s career timeline. He had to be patient to have his talent appreciated but it was worth the wait. His name now has a place on the Flyers’ Hall of Fame banners hanging from the Wells Fargo Center rafters.

“Actually I didn’t want it (the attention),’’ said Propp of his early years during a telephone conversation. “I was young, I tried to lead by example. It wasn’t until like Bob Clarke retired that it gave me a chance to be a leader with (captain) Dave Poulin and Mark Howe.

“I was really quiet at the start. I didn’t have to say much. We won all the time, too (the Flyers made it to the Final in Propp’s first year). I think it was after my first five years, where I learned to be a better player, then I could answer the critics for that.’’

As Giroux learned to be a leader from veterans such as Chris Pronger and Jaromir Jagr, Propp experienced a similar situation.

“We had (the late) Brad McCrimmon, Howe and Poulin who kind of ran the team,’’ Propp said. “Some players are naturals (from the start). . .Sidney Crosby, he knew how to handle the press. (Wayne) Gretzky, too. (Mario) Lemieux took a little longer because when he first came into the league he wasn’t a leader.

“Then in the Canada Cup he learned from all the top-flight leaders.’’

Being an exceptional leader requires emotional strength. It isn’t easy going down to a player’s locker and telling him he isn’t getting the job done.

“Poulin learned he had to put his foot down,’’ Propp said. “Some guys are reluctant to say anything with the other players. But you have to learn to be strict and a little hard on the other players when they’re not playing well.

“So as a leader, you have to be sure you play well to set the right example.’’

After leaving the Flyers via trade in 1990, Propp played for Boston, Minnesota and later the Hartford Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes). There he was playing alongside one of his best friends from junior hockey, McCrimmon, and a rookie named Pronger.

“Chris learned from Brad,’’ said Propp, who finished his career with 1,003 points in 1,016 games. “McCrimmon was a great leader and he learned from him, how to be strong. That really made a difference, having Brad teaching him a lot of things, like working out, to playing hard and standing up for yourself.

“That kind of thing makes a difference for (upcoming) leaders. In the ‘80s, when (Rick) Tocchet, (Peter) Zezel, (Scott) Mellanby and (Derrick) Smith were coming up (for the Flyers) – they learned from the best leaders that we had. That’s why they became better.’’

Giroux is faced with the tough task of helping this current Flyers team turn around once again. Philadelphia has failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2012 and the veteran leadership group, which includes Giroux, Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier, has its work cut out.

“They have to play a little better defensively,’’ said Propp, in what amounted to a kind understatement (the Flyers are a minus-37). “I know the Flyers like to force all the time and that kind of gets them in trouble with odd-man rushes.

“I would like to see some of the younger guys more of the time to work on the power play.’’

Propp, who survived a major stroke back in 2015, formerly did analysis work on Flyers radio. He currently works for a real estate firm and is a spokesperson for Bancroft NeuroRehab, an organization involved with stroke recovery.

He serves as a goodwill ambassador to Flyers fans but that duty has been temporarily suspended during the pandemic.

“It’s all good,’’ said Propp, who still plays hockey and golf, quite well we might add. “A lot of things going on but I like keeping busy.’’

Like Propp, Giroux’s name will be on one of those Hall of Fame banners someday and, in the meantime, he will be helping develop the next generation of Flyers’ leaders.

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About Wayne Fish 2444 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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