By Sam Carchidi
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The player known to his teammates as "G" will wear the C.
Star center Claude Giroux was named the 19th captain in Flyers' history, the club announced Tuesday evening. Giroux, 25, replaces the injured Chris Pronger, whose career is likely over because of post-concussion syndrome.
All week, players, coaches and management-types took turns praising Giroux's leadership qualities and saying he was ready to assume the captain's role, so it became a foregone conclusion before the team made the announcement.
"He's the obvious choice," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "He's very well-liked and well-respected by all his teammates and clearly our best player. He's a deserving guy."
Holmgren revealed that he actually told Giroux a few days earlier that he was the captain.
"He's a tough guy to read. He had no reaction," Holmgren said. "He's all business."
Giroux played coy with reporters several hours earlier and did not disclose he had already been named captain.
"Obviously it would be a great honor," he said.
He later said getting the C won't change the way he plays.
Giroux, who will start his fifth year with the Flyers, scored 28 goals and collected 93 points last season, and his relentless style _ it was never more evident than in the first-round playoff series against Pittsburgh _ was unmatched.
"After all the changes we made last year," said Holmgren, referring to the team's trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, "he really stepped up and had his best year. He's a leader and he's been surrounded by leaders." He mentioned Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Danny Briere and Richards.
Coach Peter Laviolette said Giroux has matured "and developed both on and off the ice. He's ready to lead and we know we have a strong leadership group behind him."
Lavioltette praised Giroux for "the way he plays the game, the way he attacks the game. This is his time right now."
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Briere skated for the first time since the lockout ended, joining his teammates at Tuesday's practice in Voorhees but saying he will miss the Flyers' first two games as his left wrist heals from a hairline fracture.
The 35-year-old center injured the wrist while playing in Germany.
Briere has been Mr. Playoffs, collecting 52 points (28 goals) in 45 post-season games over the last three seasons. He struggled in last year's regular season (16 goals), but rebounded and had eight goals and 13 points in 11 playoff games.
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Returning from a week's vacation with his family to celebrate his 80th birthday in St. Barts, Flyers founder Ed Snider said he was "thrilled to be back" at the Flyers' training camp in Voorhees on Tuesday.
"It's exciting. I'm looking forward to the next 48 games and hopefully the playoffs," Snider said at a news conference.
Wearing a black Winter Classic baseball-style jacket and looking tanned and relaxed, Snider said he hoped the Flyers would have "a little bit of an advantage because our organization is intact; it's basically the same team, so there's a familiarity there that will help us get out of the gate. Teams that have new coaches or whatever, may have a little bit more of a problem."
Does he think this team is capable of ending a Stanley Cup drought that has lasted since 1975?
"I go in every year thinking that," he said. "Hoping that and thinking that, because we work hard to put a team together. Our goal is to win the Cup and this year is no different than any year for me."
On Ilya Bryzgalov: "I think we're in good shape in goal. I have a lot of faith in Bryzgalov. I think he'll do a real good job for us. I'm not concerned. I think a lot of his problems had to do with the different style we played as opposed to Phoenix, and I really believe we'll probably tighten it up a bit to help him out. And I think he's a damn good goalie."
On Chris Pronger: "I was just talking to him a few minutes ago. He looks great. He certainly is not ready to play hockey and may never be, but he's part of our organization and we're thrilled that he is."
On how NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handled the lockout: "I'm just thrilled we're here playing hockey. I don't really want to talk about any of that."
On Flyers' fans filling the Skate Zone for training camp: "It would be wrong for me to say we were not concerned. But we have phenomenal fans. We had minimal season-ticket cancellations. They stuck with us and we really appreciate it."
On whether Claude Giroux will make a good captain: (Chuckling) "Is he going to be captain?"
On this year's team: "I think we have a pretty good team all-around. I think our defense is going to be different than it has been in the past, but it's going to be bigger and stronger _ and I think harder for players to play against. And I love our forwards and our offense, and I think Bryz will be a good player this year in goal, and we have a good backup for him."
On struggling against the Devils in last year's playoffs: "We couldn't adjust to New Jersey when they were bringing all their men back and we had three forwards on five players and it's hard to score, so we have to adjust accordingly to make sure we're up to date with what's going on around the league."
(more to come)
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Ticket confusion. Some fans falsely tweeted that tickets have doubled in price from last season. The cheapest single-game ticket last year was $81, and it has increased to $83 this season.
The increase was announced last January, long before the lockout, said Shawn Tilger, the Flyers' vice president of business operations,
The tickets range from $39 to $92 per game (on the average) when they are purchased in a season-ticket package.
Tilger said less than 180 people canceled their season tickets during the lockout, and that about 300 have purchased season tickets since the lockout ended.
Sellouts. The Flyers have a virtual sellout for Saturday's opener against the Penguins, though a few single tickets remain.
All (free) tickets have been distributed for Thursday's 6 p.m. practice at the WFC.
"Awesome," coach Peter Laviolette said when told the practice would be held before a filled arena.