Chat wrap: Hershey’s Alexandre Giroux

Two-time AHL goal-scoring champion Alexandre Giroux of the Hershey Bears stepped into the AHL Chat Room to answer fans’ questions on Tuesday, Apr. 20. Alex’s transcript is below!

Talk about what it’s like to play in Hershey and what it was like to return to Hershey when you came back from Chicago a couple years ago? – Chris from Dover, Penn.
Playing in Hershey, I think everyone knows that the crowd makes a big difference. Whether you’re playing Wednesday night or Sunday afternoon, you’re averaging about 8-9-10,000 every time, so the home crowd is something big. That’s what’s great about Hershey, since home crowds are big in the American League.

How does the experience gained from last year’s Calder Cup title run prepare this year’s team for the playoff run? – James from Lititz, Penn.
Huge. Everyone went through the championship, and we’re one year older and more mature. We went through some situations last year, especially against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where we were down 3-2 and had to win two games in a row. But we came out winning that series, so I think everyone learned how to play when we’re up and how to play when we’re down. It makes things not easier, but we’ve been there before so we know we can do a lot of things if we put our minds to it.

Now that you guys have lost a game to Bridgeport in the series, how do you expect the team to come out and play on Wednesday night? – Spencer from Hershey, Penn.
Obviously we expect to play a lot better than we did in the last game. We knew that Bridgeport is a really hard team to play – they’re really physical. We wanted to win (the series) on Sunday, but now that we’ve had a day off and a good practice, I think the guys know what the series is all about, and for some of the new guys, they know what playoffs mean. We have a series, and we have to come out a lot harder than we did on Sunday.

Do you typically prepare yourself any differently for a playoff game as opposed to a regular-season game? – Sherry from York, Penn.
Pre-game, not really. On the ice, not really. But it’s the whole fact that in an 80-game season, every shift and every period of every game doesn’t matter as much as it does in the playoffs. Sometimes you get in a groove where you know you have five games this week, and you try to make the best out of it. But when you have four our five games in the playoffs, you really have to win them all.

The stakes are just higher during the games. So the preparation is the same, but there’s really more of a focus on every single shift in the playoffs.

In general, do you have any pre-game rituals that you like to stick to each game day? – Josh from Hershey, Penn.
Well, I told the guys I’d try to get some of their names into this thing. So, my ritual is typically five of us go over Greg Amadio’s house and we cook the pre-game meal. It started with my roommate Chris Bourque and Greg – Chris is the sous-chef and Greg is the main chef.

When I get to the rink, I have so many little things – I don’t call them rituals, just things I do. I put my stick always in the same spot in the locker room, touch the ice with my right foot first.

But the main routine is going to have lunch at Greg Amadio’s. He’s my neighbor, we’re like 30 seconds apart, and Keith Aucoin, Andrew Joudrey, myself, Chris, and Patrick McNeill, always go over. We always sit at the same spot at the table. Every game, somebody else is buying the lunch.

Do you find yourself needing to make any adjustments as the season wears on in terms of conditioning or keeping mental focus? – Josh from Hershey, Penn.
We work out pretty hard in the summer in order to get ready for the season. But the season, in the American League it’s kind of hard to work out regularly because we play so many games toward the end of the week, like four (games) in five (days). So you try, when you have a day or two off during the week, you try to get the weights going, and a lot of riding the bike to help the legs.

It’s sometimes hard to work out when you’re playing four in five because you don’t want to go to the gym on a Thursday (in that case). But at the beginning of the year, we usually play only on weekends, so you try and maintain that level that you were at during the summer by working out.

And nobody ever complains when you’re winning so many games, but sometimes when you win, everything goes so well that you forget about the things that made you successful. The hardest part was to keep focus all the time to do what we did, which was keep our team winning. For practice or for games, it’s easy to get off the boat, and when you lose a couple, you realize it’s not that easy. So the biggest challenge for us was to always keep it on track to win all these games.

For a gifted scorer like yourself, what’s it been like playing on a high-flying, high-scoring team like Hershey? – Nate from Johnson City, N.Y.
I think it’s been a perfect match for me. To have (Bruce) Boudreau, (Bob) Woods, and Mark French as coaches, they like offense, they like guys on the forecheck, and they knew what I was capable to do. And the last two years, a guy like Keith Aucoin has made my job a lot easier. He’s great with the puck as a passer, and I’m more like a finisher. Last year we had Graham Mink, a hardworking guy just like Andrew Gordon this year.

For me, it’s made my life not necessarily easier, but when one of those guys can get you the puck nine or 10 times a game with open nets, you’re going to score. And with our power play set-up, Chris Bourque has played the point the last two years and is always looking for me for shots, so all the guys know their roles. Some guys are better passers and some are better finishers, so everyone knows their role, and that’s made it work for me and my linemates.

What has it been like playing on a line with Andrew Gordon this season as opposed to Graham Mink in the past? – Isaiah from Leola, Penn.
They’re two guys who don’t quit on anything. Every shift, they go all out. Andrew plays with his heart on his sleeve every shift. He’s going to corners and makes things happen, finishes his hits. And Mink was the same way last year – big body in front of the net, especially on the power play. They dig in for me and Coiner (Keith Aucoin) to make plays around the net.

These guys don’t always get the credit, people don’t see it as much as we do. I know, and Keith knows, and Chris (Bourque) knows, when these guys are working down low, it makes the play a lot easier for us on the perimeter.

This season there have been a number of Bears who have been called up to Washington and then returned to Hershey. How do you and the other players and coaches adapt to this so-called revolving door over the course of a season? – Red from Mechanicsburg, Penn.
I think everyone adapts pretty well. Like I said before, with Boudreau, Woods, and Frenchy, the last three coaches have all come through Hershey. So when we go up, we know their style and what to expect, they know the players’ styles and what we can do, so systems-wise, no one is lost when we go up or down.

I think it’s just giving a confidence boost for the player and the team. For instance, the time when (Mathieu) Perreault went up, Keith came back down, everyone was gaining confidence based on the players coming and going. I think there were about 10 guys went up in that few games. (Guys like) Boyd Kane, everyone came back with a good attitude and with confidence. And I think that was part of the reason why the team was good. Nobody was complaining or anything like that – when guys went up or down, they just adapted and came back, and they’re going to be better players.

When you’ve been called up to Washington, who on the team have you usually hung around with in the locker room? – Bryce from Kenora, Ont.
This year, Keith was up at the same time, so we obviously know each other from playing here. I played with Mike Green when he was here, and we get along pretty well, so I would hang out with him, too.

What is your favorite road building to play in and why, and what is the toughest road building to play in and why? – Tyler from Lancaster, Penn.
As far as the toughest building, I think it’s Wilkes-Barre. We played there the last three years, about 10 times a year. They have good crowds, and for some reason it’s just a tough place to go. It’s only an hour to get there, it’s not a long road trip, but we know when we get there it’s always a big battle. The last couple years, we’ve played against that team every year in the playoffs. Every game every year is a battle, whether they’re down here or we’re up there. But going into that building, it’s always loud, they get excited when a big play happens, and when they score a goal, their crowd gets going.

For my favorite, I’d have to say crowd-wise and because the building was so nice, it has to be the Finals last year in Winnipeg. We got there and it was sold out, and you couldn’t even hear the singer doing the national anthem. That was something awesome to experience. Obviously we won (the Calder Cup) in that building, so that makes it easier for me to say I liked it. We don’t play there too often either, maybe every second year, but it was a good building to play in and it was a good experience.

As a hockey player, what has been your favorite season to this point? – Bryce from Kenora, Ont.
It has to be last year for me personally and for the team. I went up to Washington for 12 games, scored a couple of goals up there. And I came down here and got my personal bests with 60 and 75 goals (counting playoffs), and we won the Calder Cup, so you can’t ask for a better season. With the team winning, I think that was the cherry on top, and it was obviously my best year.