Sharing his seventh All-Star game with his family, the young NHL talent was unique to Flyers captain Claude Giroux

LAS VEGAS — During a commercial break at the All-Star Skills Competition on Friday, as T-Mobile Arena staff scrambled around the ice banks and nets to prepare for the next event, Flyers captain Claude Giroux skated quietly around the perimeter of the ice. He wore a miniature, wearing the Flyers jersey, a carbon copy of himself in his arms.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Gavin, Giroux’s son, has accompanied every adventure and marveled at every show at the 2022 All Star Game in Las Vegas. Excitement emanated from the simplest moments – when Gavin saw a giant puck with Giroux’s face on it outside the arena before the weekend’s events began, Giroux saw his face ‘light up with wonder.

As he shared the weekend with his eldest son for the first time, the 2022 NHL All-Star Game Most Valuable Player slowed down and relished his seventh experience at the event.

“That’s basically what I’ve learned over the years is to be relaxed and enjoy the weekend,” Giroux said. “You can’t stress the game or the skill. We’re all here to have a good time and try to put on a show for the fans.

With seven All-Star appearances for the captain, only Bobby Clarke (eight) has done more for the Flyers. But the presence of Gavin and his wife, Ryanne, put a different spin on another All-Star trip for the 15-year Flyers veteran.

Those familiar experiences of sitting on the bench and chatting with league rivals during the skills competition or doing TV interviews after the event had a distinct feeling with Gavin in tow.

“It was a great weekend, especially with my wife and my oldest, Gavin,” said Giroux. “We did a lot of cool stuff and took it all in and we’re gonna stay one more day, kind of just hang out.”

In addition to having his family present, Giroux found this year’s event unique compared to past experiences. This time, the 34-year-old Giroux didn’t have as many acquaintances present in the league, and no other Flyers were invited to participate.

Of the 2022 All-Star Weekend players, only Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, a friend of Giroux who dates back to their experience playing for Canada at the 2008 World Juniors, has had as many appearances on the stars than Giroux.

“This year feels a bit like my first, to be honest,” Giroux said. “I don’t know as many guys as the other All-Star Games. A little older than some of the players here, but that makes it a lot of fun.

Competing alongside some of the league’s budding stars — his Metropolitan Division teammate and New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes, for example, is just 20 — was a treat for Giroux.

“Coming here and being around all these young people and just being able to participate with them is fun and it makes you feel young again,” Giroux said.

But the idea of ​​feeling “young again” at the All-Star Game implies that Giroux’s old age in the world of professional hockey has seeped into his skill or ability to score this season. This suggests that he has not been a consistent healthy product throughout his career.

That couldn’t be further from the truth for Giroux, who is second in franchise history in points (893).

In 45 games, Giroux ranks second on the Flyers in points with 35, behind winger Cam Atkinson by one. Giroux brought his dazzling scoring ability to Las Vegas, registering three goals and an all-around assist in the semi-final and final victories in the Metropolitan Division.

When he couldn’t finish his scoring chances, Giroux’s signature competitiveness showed, even in an All-Star game. In the semi-final game against the Pacific Division, Giroux fired a shot wide from the net and slammed his stick into the end boards in frustration.

His efforts in every game earned Giroux MVP honors, making him the sixth-oldest player to earn league accolade. The Metropolitan Division rivals enjoyed being on his team for once and benefiting from his talent instead of being on the receiving side.

“Just a top player,” Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho said of Giroux. “Obviously I think this is his seventh appearance in the All-Star Game. So that tells you he’s been very consistent and competitive throughout his career. Just a great guy in the locker room.

Flyers fans know Giroux’s playmaking and goal-scoring abilities well this season, even when his teammates around him haven’t been able to perform at his level. But on Saturday, hockey fans across North America who wouldn’t otherwise follow the Flyers witnessed his talent and level of competition alongside some of the league’s top talent.

With the trade deadline approaching and his contract expiring after the season, Giroux’s performance at the All-Star Game served as a celebration of his career thus far. Regardless of the uncertainty of the future, Giroux chose to focus on the present moment.

He captained the Metropolitan Division to win the All-Star Game, he won the MVP award for the competition, and he got to enjoy it all with Gavin’s face glued to the glass in front of the team bench.

“Every time during the game I would look at him and he would do something stupid, I know him and my wife, they had a great time during the game,” Giroux said. “Obviously when you win MVP, it makes him a little bit better.”

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