Hockey and family, and not necessarily in that order, are the two biggest priorities in the life of Damien Giroux.
No surprise that the two collided in an exceptionally good way a few weeks back as the Valley East native was selected in the 5th round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild.
"We had a family supper," noted Giroux, when asked about the post-selection celebration he enjoyed, not long after realizing the next step in his on-going hockey journey. "A couple of cousins, my grandparents and parents, we had a family BBQ in the backyard."
"I'm really close to my family, I like to spend as much time as possible with them. That family time is pretty precious, especially when you're not around for most of the year, playing hockey." Of course, some might suggest the other precious gift that Giroux' possesses is his ability to continually defy the odds, overcoming a lack of size - he is listed at 5'9" with the NHL Central Registry - while garnering attention, once again, at the next level.
"I think for me, every night, I try and be the hardest working guy on the ice," said the product of the Nickel City Hockey Association. "I try and play a complete game, play just as hard defensively as I do offensively."
"And I think what kind of defines me is that I am willing to learn. I know I'm not the greatest player in certain aspects of the game, but I will do whatever it takes to work on them and turn them into strengths." Plenty of young hockey prospects speak these words. Few live them, day in and day out, more than Damien Giroux.
It is evidenced in the eye test, as one takes in any of the countless summer sessions that the Saginaw Spirit forward will attend at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex, at RHP, always looking to better himself.
The depth of Giroux' conviction to the work and mindset involved to become a consumate professional is even more obvious when one talks to any one of the gentlemen who have had the opportunity to work with the well-rounded centerman. The accolades surrounding his character seem to know few boundaries.
And still it seems that Giroux refuses to give in to the hype, focusing his attention on the items that are key to fulfilling his NHL dreams. This, even as he would deal with the incredible scrutiny that accompanies the draft year for these players.
"I really tried not to think about it," he said. "I tried to worry about the things that I could control - my effort, the way that I play my game. As for people watching, I try and keep that as far away, locked in my mind."
Like most who are scouted but not projected to be chosen in the first few rounds, Giroux entered draft day hopeful, but far from certain that his name would be announced in Dallas. "I was fortunate enough to talk to a couple of teams, here and there, during the year," he said.
At least part of the storyline for this particular Minnesota Wild draftee is the acute awareness that former team member and Wild assistant GM (not to mention fellow Valley East native) Andrew Brunette would have of so many of the important details of the Giroux portfolio that might not otherwise be readily available to the hundreds of folks who simply observed his performance on the ice.
Now Brunette hopes the strength of his connection and conviction will pay dividends. "I received a text from Andrew (during the year), more from a friend perspective, asking how my year was going, if I was enjoying myself, enjoying the ride," said Giroux.
"It was great being able to talk with him in that sense." As for the upcoming OHL season, Giroux and his Saginaw teammates are anxious to continue the movement forward. From a personal standpoint, the local product nearly doubled his point total production from his rookie season (8G-17A-25 pts) to his sophomore campaign (19G-24A-43 pts), all while his team also made the jump to the post-season for the first time in his junior career.
Giroux sees plenty of reason for optimism, highlighting one particular turning point for ther Spirit back in December of 2017. "I've never been more proud of a team than on the night we came back against Sarnia," noted Giroux.
Trailing the Sting 6-0 with under three minutes to play in the second period, the Saginaw squad reeled off seven unanswered goals, with Giroux sending the contest to overtime with a goal at 16:30 of the third, and Cole Coskey netting the game-winner late in O/T.
"To be able to rally up that effort and to come back was such an unbelievable moment," he said. "It taught us, as a team, that is we work as one, we can achieve. As long as you never quit, you're never out of the game." And Giroux, for his part, is very much in the game when it comes to remaining on the radar of the Minnesota Wild.