‘I still think I’m young at heart:’ Claude Giroux motivated for upcoming season with Ottawa Senators

He’s a hometown hero whose success on the biggest stage has put him among the NHLs elite. Until now, his path has left fans in the capital watching from afar.

But a big offseason move by the Ottawa Senators has brought Claude Giroux back home – and the move has the 34-year-old just as motivated as Sens fans.

It may be the offseason, but several days a week you can find Giroux pushing his limits in the gym as he prepares for a big season with his new Senators team filled with young talent.

“I still think I’m young at heart,” said Giroux, following a workout just days after signing his new deal.

“There’s a lot of players under 25, so it’s funny to think that they’re 10 years younger than me. But I’m excited to be with them and the energy they will bring, and I bring a lot of energy myself.”

The 34-year-old veteran is set to enter his 16th NHL season, but it will be his first with a Senators jersey on his back, finally playing out the dreams he had as a young teen.

“I remember when I was in Grade 10 or 11, I played for Gatineau Olympics, and the first ten games of the season I had a pretty good start and then reports came out that I would have a chance to get drafted,” said Giroux.

“That’s when my eyes opened, and that whole year at Beatrice Desloges, watching the NHL and going to Sens games and being like ‘Oh my God, I might have a chance to do this,’ that’s one of my biggest motivations,” he said.

“Going to Sens games as a young kid knowing that I’d have a chance to play in this league and to play for the Sens, that’s just a lot more exciting.”

But his homecoming is about more than fulfilling childhood dreams. For Giroux it’s a chance to come back to where it all began, first in high school in Orleans and then in Gatineau with the Olympiques.

“For me at the start of the summer, I kind of realized that I wasn’t going to go back to Florida,” he said.

“That’s when I started looking at my options and I had maybe three or four options. The more and more I thought about Ottawa, it started making a lot of sense.”

Now a family man and a dad to Gavin and Palmer, bringing his wife and sons closer to their family was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“For my kids to go to school here in Ottawa and to be able to see their grandparents not just two or three times, it’s going to be a huge difference, and my wife’s family is from Kanata too.”

The home ice experience this season is one the veteran says he expects will be special.

“Every time I came with Philly and played in Ottawa there was just a different feeling to it because there was some familiar faces in the stands,” he said. “It was a great feeling and now I get to do that 41 times, so it’s fun.”

Playing at home also means Giroux gets to stop at his favourite spots in the city this season.

“I like Fratelli’s in Kanata, I like Italian food and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Glen’s Poutine at Canadian Tire, but I do that one once a week. I try to, anyways.”

Giroux may be fuelling for the season in true Canadian fashion, but when the puck drops on the Sens season his focus is clear.

“You know (Alex) DeBrincat coming here and myself and just the young talent we have, it’s something we’re very excited about, but at the same time we have to put in the work and start winning some hockey games here.”

He’s an Ottawa hero, hoping his homecoming can be the start of a new era for the team he grew up watching.

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