CHICAGO -- I haven't lived in Hearst, Ontario, since 1990, but it's where I spent my formative youth, and where I developed my passion for the game of hockey.
The small lumber town of 6,000 people -- way, way, way up north, some 12 hours driving distance from Toronto -- doesn't produce many NHLers. So, from the text messages I'm getting from my hometown buddy Claude Breton, I know folks up there are head over heels to see one of their own, Claude Giroux, in the Stanley Cup finals.
"I know my grandparents are pretty excited, and my family and friends. They just can't believe I'm here right now," the Flyers forward told me during Thursday's media day at the Stanley Cup finals. "I can't believe it myself. I'm pretty excited."
I hadn't met Giroux before last season. He was 2 years old, after all, when I left Hearst. I first wrote about him last season.
The last round was interesting to say the least for Giroux, who was dominant against the Montreal Canadiens, the most popular team by far in Hearst, a French-speaking town.
"Myself, I was a big Habs fan growing up," said Giroux. "It was tough for my buddies to cheer for me, but at the end they were pretty happy. I told them, 'If you want to see the Cup, you have to cheer for me.' So it's all good. ... Hopefully we can win so I can bring [the Cup] back home."
For that, I might have to make the trek back to Hearst myself. I haven't been there since 1997. But apparently my own middling media career remains a topic back in Hearst.
"You're pretty big there, Pierre," smiled Giroux.