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Prankster Giroux Nothing to Laugh at for Phantoms

Monday, 12.1.2008 / 3:20 PM ET / News
By Lindsay Kramer |
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Prankster Giroux Nothing to Laugh at for Phantoms

With a population of about 6,000, very few secrets last long in the northern outpost of Hearst, Ontario.

Say, for instance, you woke up one morning and found a chunk of peanut butter on your windshield. Chances are you'd find out pretty quickly who did it.

But just in case you never had the right connections to crack that code, the culprit was probably local prankster Raymond Giroux.

''I don't think they were too happy,'' said Raymond's son, Claude. ''But he was just trying to get them back. They probably pulled a prank on him.''

There isn't a whole lot to do in Hearst, as Claude readily admits. You either hunt or play hockey, he said. And laugh, too. Residents apparently do that a lot, as well.

Claude has taken the best of those latter two activities and combined them to burst from virtually nowhere to a promising pro career.

''He's a guy you have to stay on your toes when he's around,'' said roommate Michael Ratchuk, a defenseman. ''He gets his jokes in when he can.''

When pressed for an example, Giroux hides behind the defense of what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. But that's a long ways from a not guilty plea.

''There's a time to be serious, but I try to be loose,'' he said. ''I don't really try to be funny. I just like to have fun, mess around. It just gets me on my game. I play better when I have fun.''

If only some Ontario Hockey League team had realized how Giroux's zest translates to productivity on the stat sheet, he might have dominated that league instead of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Like most pro hockey players, Giroux couldn't be kept off the frozen pond as a youngster. Unlike most players, though, Giroux grew up just a long wrist shot away from where Santa Claus lives, so braving the elements takes on a whole new meaning in Hearst. School would be canceled there just out of sheer, brutal cold. Those were the types of days when Giroux and his buddies laced 'em up.

''We'd put a lot of clothes on," he said. "We didn't go too long. We tried quick shifts, I guess.''

Hearty dedication doesn't count for everything when it comes to hockey's intersection of sport and business. Giroux never landed on the OHL's radar and was snubbed in his draft year for that league. So he tried out for Gatineau of the QMJHL and made that team instead.

''When I went to Gatineau, I tried to stay positive,'' Giroux said. ''I just went there to have fun, be happy I was playing at a high level. I didn't think I was that good.''

Giroux contradicted himself with an outburst of 103 points in 69 games as a rookie in 2005-06. That caught the Flyers' eyes, and the team took him No. 22 in the 2006 Entry Draft.

Giroux soared from there, putting up 112 points two seasons ago and 106 last season. He captained the Olympiques in 2007-08, taking the team to the QMJHL championship and earning the QMJHL playoff MVP award after scoring a staggering 51 points in 19 postseason games.

''I think everything was just lucky bounces everywhere,'' Giroux said. ''I had a lot of chances.''

Giroux's ''luck'' must have wheels because it's followed him to the Phantoms. He scored the game-winner in the team's first contest and later ran off a seven-game points streak.

''There's things you can teach players growing up," said Ratchuk. "The things he does, you can't teach. "He'll come back to the bench and you'll think, 'How did he do that stuff?' He makes people around him better.''

Though it wasn't in the original plan, Philadelphia has squeezed him for every drop of talent. A torrent of injuries and call-ups left the Phantoms short up front, and that's meant coach John Paddock has pushed him onto the ice for about 25 minutes a game. Paddock had hoped to keep that to around 19-20, but Giroux just can’t be spared on the power play or penalty kill.
There's a time to be serious, but I try to be loose. I don't really try to be funny. I just like to have fun, mess around." - Claude Giroux

''He's a real creative guy," said Paddock. "He's a real smart player with the puck, without the puck. There aren't really any issues with him on the defensive side. He doesn't make me nervous in any way on the ice. After the season, he'll adapt to do whatever he has to do to reach the NHL.''

Maybe all of Giroux's laughing is a way to help distract him from how gassed he is.

''Well, when you play three games in three nights, you get tired,'' he said. ''But they give you a lot of rest, eat good, you do little things like that, you are ready for the games.''

Being alert is important when you tempt revenge by wearing the joker's hat. Ratchuk promised the crowd in the room has payback on its mind, but he just can't pinpoint what it might be.

''Oh yeah, I've been trying to think of a way,'' he said. ''But he's pretty good at knowing what's going on around him, so he's going to be hard to get.''

After years of sizing up his targets, Giroux knows better than to underestimate them.

''We're having a lot of fun this year,'' he said. ''I just hope they do something legal.''




1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
4 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


C. Giroux 49 16 27 -3 43
J. Voracek 49 8 33 3 41
W. Simmonds 49 18 16 -4 34
B. Schenn 47 14 15 -1 29
S. Couturier 40 9 15 9 24
S. Gostisbehere 31 8 16 4 24
M. Read 48 9 9 -5 18
S. Laughton 49 4 10 -6 14
M. Raffl 49 6 6 4 12
M. Del Zotto 47 3 9 -8 12
S. Mason 12 12 6 .916 2.71
M. Neuvirth 11 6 2 .933 2.14
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