Sudbury Wolves
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Zacharie Giroux and the Sudbury Wolves - a near perfect fit
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Sometimes the stars really do align.

Already well positioned for a lengthy post-season run, the Sudbury Wolves looked to better their chances at the trade deadline by targetting certain very specific traits: players with playoff experience, character, defensive acumen and an understanding of how to win when the games become closer and tougher.

Trade target, thy name is Zacharie Giroux.

“I wanted to stay in Flint and win a championship in Flint – but we were in eighth place,” noted the 20 year-old captain of the Firebirds who was shipped north in return for a pair of third round picks back on January 9th. “And seeing my hometown team in first place – well, I couldn’t turn down that opportunity.”

“It was something that I had shared with my agent, family and friends, how nice it would be to finish my career at home, playing in front of my family, friends and grandparents who have been there since day one, driving me to practices.”

Zacharie Giroux has been on the radar of many a local hockey fan since day one. It didn’t hurt that his older brother and NHL draftee (Damien) was also garnering boatloads of attention in minor hockey circles in Sudbury quite early on.

“Having him as a role model - and even with the competitions we had on the outdoor rink and in the gym – definitely made me better,” said Zacharie. “Seeing him have success and following in his footsteps was very special.”

Born more or less three years apart, there is plenty in common to the general look of both young skilled forwards – though Zacharie would take advantage of having access to the microphone to get one in on his brother.

“I think our game is pretty similar,” he said. “We both think defensively first; get the puck out of our zone and the offense will come. I would like to say that I have a little bit more of an offensive touch – but he would likely dispute that.”

There’s was a mindset that was engrained throughout those early formative years – and very close to home. “Having my dad coach me growing up, he drilled into me that defense should be my number one priority,” noted Zacharie. “I don’t have the high offense IQ like some of the guys out here, but what’s going to get me a contract is my defense-first approach.”

“Being able to play pro is all about being able to manage the puck and play D zone first.”

It is hardly talking out of school to suggest that the highly skilled 2023-2024 edition of the Sudbury Wolves are not all drawn automatically to this same mindset – which is part of the reason that Giroux was added to the mix.

“There has to be a willingness to do whatever it takes, to do the job you are asked to do: whether that’s chipping a puck out, making a play defensively, blocking a shot, scoring a goal,” he said.

“Look at what Peterborough (2022-2023 OHL champions) did last year.”

And while it’s not easy to quickly immerse yourself with a brand new crew of teammates and be able to command a certain degree of respect when you talk, it’s also no coincidence that both Zacharie and Damien have worn the “C” during their junior careers, their ability to tackle the role somewhat reminiscent of another pair of local hockey siblings.

“I think it all comes down to respect first,” said Giroux. “Growing up, I was taught to be nice to everyone. No matter the situation, try and come out with a positive side of things. Just watching my brother taught me so much, even skating with the Foligno brothers (Nick and Marcus) – I am forever grateful for that.”

And for as much as the Wolves, on paper, have at least as good a chance of coming out of the Eastern Conference as any of the remaining top three or four teams, Giroux understands better than most than high expectations do not, in and of themselves, translate into wins.

“I think it’s easy to start taking things for granted,” he said. “Every team in this league is a good team. For us last year (in Flint), I think we understood that too late. We knew that we had the skill, but the will has to come first.”

Combine both and maybe, just maybe, you really do have a match made in heaven.

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