Scott Hartnell remembers the time Claude Giroux was sitting in a Nashville bar when Flyer tough guy Craig Berube walked in.
Giroux, competitive-to-a-fault at everything from poker to ping-pong, decided to challenge Berube – at least 40 pounds heavier with about a hundred more hockey fights on his resume – to an arm wrestling match.
Other Flyers in attendance broke out in wide grins. Somebody, they knew, was about to be humbled.
Let Hartnell, who took part in a media Zoom call on Monday along with Ian Laperriere and Sean Couturier to discuss Giroux’s upcoming 1,000th game as a Flyer, take it from there:
“We were having a couple ‘waters’ at The Stage in Nashville (home of the NHL’s Predators),’’ Hartnell recalled. “Live music. ‘Chief’ wound up showing up and was hanging out. He goes (to Giroux), ‘Oh, I hear you’re pretty good.’ ‘G’ said, ‘I’ll take you on right now.’ So they cleared the waters (on the table) out of the way.’’
That’s when something almost completely unexpected happened.
“It was the big match, I was the referee,’’ Hartell said with a chuckle. “G kind of let Chief have the first win. Then, just like the movie ‘Over the Top’ (a 1987 flick about arm wrestling), with Sylvester Stallone, G just kind of hammered him down, got in his face, all over him and we were just going bananas. Chief had to leave the bar because he was so embarrassed. Pretty funny story.’’
Funny but also revealing about Giroux’s competitive nature.
On Thursday night, Giroux is scheduled to play in his 1,000th game as a Flyer when, fittingly enough, the Predators hit town.
It could be a bittersweet moment because all signs point to Giroux being traded prior to the Monday NHL deadline. Giroux’s contract is scheduled to run out in July and if the player agrees to waive the no-move clause, he probably will be moved to a Stanley Cup contender.
The Flyers decided to hold this media call in part to recognize Giroux’s career as a Flyer. He’s already surpassed Hockey Hall of Famer Bob Clarke for the most games served as captain, as well as the most power-play points in team history. His 900 overall points are second only to Clarke’s 1,210.
Laperriere has been both a teammate and a coach during Giroux’s career. He can attest to Giroux’s dedication to the game.
“When I played with him, he was just 22 years old and I remember Danny Briere telling me: ‘Everybody wants to play with him.’ He was so good, so talented, but he was just a baby,’’ said Laperriere, now head coach of the Flyers’ AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms in Allentown. “Now I see him, he’s 34, he’s a dad with two beautiful kids. When I played with him, he always competed.’’
Like Hartnell, Laperriere marvels at Giroux’s spirit to win at almost any cost. Remember, Giroux has missed only about a dozen games in reaching the 1,000-game milestone.
“He’s willing to do whatever he can to win,’’ Laperriere said. “He competes at anything. You want to play pool with him, he’s going to compete. That’s the only thing missing in his career now, winning something (a Stanley Cup).’’
Giroux, who registered point No. 900 in game No. 999 the other night, did come close to a championship in 2010 when the Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Final, only to lose in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Hartnell, now a studio hockey analyst for NBC Philadelphia, has vivid memories of Giroux when he walked in the door for the first time at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, New Jersey back in 2008.
“I remember he looked 14 years old,’’ Hartnell said. “He was a young-looking kid, not much English. You could kind of see the confidence he had. Just the skill, the passion, the ability. Watching that game on Thursday (for 1,000) will be pretty cool to see.’’
Couturier also admires Giroux’s attack-first style.
“That’s what makes him so great, his competitiveness,’’ Couturier said. “It’s one thing to be talented, to be skilled, to have success in this league but to have success for as long as he’s had, it’s his competitiveness, his willingness to be the best, to win that makes him so good for so long.’’
That need to be the best carries over into almost everything he does.
“Whatever he does or play sports. . .whether it’s cards or Monopoly or bowling, whatever little thing he wants to challenge you,’’ Couturier said. “He’s going to give you his all. And if you beat him or you make it hard on him, he’ll give you some attitude. That’s the kind of competitive guy he is.’’
Hartnell indicated Giroux does a lot of his leading by example. There’s no need for rah-rah speeches then you show up every night and give it your all.
“He brings it every night, he brings it every day at practice,’’ Hartnell said. “Whether he’s working out in the summertime. He’s always one of the best guys in shape in camp. He’s fast, he can make the plays. I was lucky enough to be on his line for three or four years. Whether it’s a big faceoff or a blocked shot, he’s the guy you want out there.’’