VOORHEES, N.J. — Wearing a backwards Flyers hat, workout shorts and a long-sleeved shirt, Claude Giroux skated leisurely with his family.
He laughed and cheered, soaking in the simple but memorable moments.
And what may have been one of his last skates — in a countless number of them — at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, New Jersey.
Giroux and the Flyers practiced Wednesday ahead of the captain's 1,000th career game Thursday (7 p.m. ET against the Predators on NBCSP). Climbing the ladder of franchise icons since February 2008, Giroux will join Hall of Famer Bob Clarke as the only two players to suit up for 1,000 games in a Flyers jersey.
Following Giroux's milestone night, the trade deadline arrives four days later. The Flyers, amid a major letdown of a season and second straight without a playoff bid, are set to aggressively retool. Giroux is on the final year of his contract, which has a no-movement clause. The consensus feeling is that Giroux will waive his clause and the two parties will agree to a trade for the benefit of both. Ultimately, time will soon tell.
But for right now, the city's longest-tenured active athlete and an all-time great Flyer, has his sights on his 1,000th game and enjoying it with loved ones who are in town for the mark. Giroux had his relatives at practice Wednesday. After he led stretches to the tune of stick taps from his teammates, his family members took the ice. Giroux met the media, was reflective and appreciative, and then joined his family on the ice.
"It's exciting, I have a lot of family here, my parents," Giroux said. "A lot of family and friends. Everybody's making it feel very special, including my teammates, coaches, fans. It's very special right now.
"If I can be honest, I'm trying to focus on playing a 1,000th game with the Flyers. It's something I'm proud of, I'm very happy I got a chance to do this. After that, it's going to be change the mindset a little bit and see how things are going to go.
"Playing 1,000 games for one organization I think doesn't happen often anymore. It was important to do this."
The Hearst, Ontario native made his NHL debut with the Flyers as a 20-year-old kid back on Feb. 19, 2008. Now, Giroux is in his 15th year and his No. 28 will eventually be retired by the organization. In his first game, though, he was rocking No. 56 as the Flyers suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to the Senators.
"I just remembered he looked like he was 14 years old in his hometown of Ottawa there," former teammate and current NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst Scott Hartnell said with a laugh Monday. "Young-looking kid, not much English, but you could kind of see the confidence that he had. Now almost every kid that comes into the league has the confidence that he had, so I think he was a little before his time. Just the skills and passing ability and hockey sense.
"Watching him grow, he was a kid that turned into maybe just a little bit bigger of a kid. And still doing what he does best every night. Watching that first game and to be watching the 1,000th game here coming up on Thursday, it'll be pretty cool to see most of them."
In Philadelphia, Giroux has grown from that 20-year-old kid into a 34-year-old husband and father. Giroux, his wife Ryanne and their two boys Gavin and Palmer will be honored Thursday night in a pregame ceremony.
More: From ceremony to grilled cheese, Flyers have big plans for Giroux's 1,000th game
On Wednesday, Giroux called all of his teammates his "second family."
"I love them," he said. "This week, they've made me feel pretty special. It makes me feel a little awkward, but a lot of people like to feel love like this."
Giroux is not the ostentatious type.
"It's always impressive when you're dealing with athletes of that status and his credentials, and still, the humility that somebody like that has," Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo said Wednesday. "So for him, I don't know if he's real comfortable with all of the attention and everything that's going on. But that's what makes all of us — coaches, teammates, management, everybody — want to make it as special as possible. Not just because what he's done here and not just the player that he is, but also the person that he is, as well."
Giroux highlighted the franchise's iconic founder Ed Snider, who died in April 2016.
"Since Day 1 here, being a part of the Philadelphia Flyers, early on in my career, having a chance to meet Mr. Snider and get to know him and get to see his passion for the game. Everybody followed him," Giroux said. "You just wanted to be a part of the family. That's one thing that Mr. Snider was probably the best at is making it feel like we're a big family. Coming to the game, after each game, win or lose, just asking questions. Everybody here knew his passion for the game and for this organization. Just to be a part of it for a 1,000th game, it's just an honor."
Giroux is second on the Flyers' all-time leaderboards in games played (999), points (900) and assists (609), behind only Clarke. The franchise legend owns 1,144 games, 1,210 points and 852 assists. He was general manager of the Flyers when the team selected Giroux 22nd overall in the 2006 draft.
"He's obviously Mr. Flyer," Giroux said. "Since Day 1 for me, he's the one that drafted me, the one that said my name. Since then, any position he's had with the Flyers, he's always been a great friend, always there to support me and help me. He's been through it. So for him, it's kind of going through experiences he's had. He has definitely helped me a lot in my career."
More: What makes Giroux different in the eyes of his peers
Back in September, former head coach Alain Vigneault noted how Giroux was "missing one thing to his legacy."
A Stanley Cup.
There has been plenty of outside debate about whether the Flyers surrounded Giroux with enough help during his prime years as the franchise's centerpiece. Over the last 10 seasons, this one included, the Flyers have missed the playoffs six times and have gone past the first round only once. In a tough city like Philadelphia, some will likely knock Giroux for the Flyers' lack of playoff success from the 2011-12 season to now.
"That is completely unfair, in my opinion, to place that on G — the fact that we don't have a Stanley Cup," Yeo said.
"Hopefully that moment does come for him, where he is a Stanley Cup winner. Because you always like to see the great players have that opportunity to do that."
Philly should appreciate Giroux's durability and consistency. Going back to 2009-10, a span of 13 seasons, he's the only NHL player to rank among the top six in both games played and points scored.
And 1,000 games, all in this city, is commendable.
"In my time here, I think people recognize effort and appreciate effort. And G has been nothing but effort," Yeo said. "I think it's been a great fit — him for the city and the city for him, too. It's special, no question. To be able to do that with one organization says an awful lot about you."
Through time and hard love, Giroux has learned a lot about Philadelphia fans.
They'll share at least one more moment together Thursday night.
"It maybe took me a little while to understand what it is to play in Philly," Giroux said. "When I got to figure it out and understanding the fans, how they are; I've said it before, they're absolutely nuts — their passion, how they want to win. You have to respect the way they think, the way they act."
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