When the Quebec Tigres acquired Phil Miller at the trading deadline to be their third-line center, it spelled trouble for Florian Theroux. The journeyman has traditionally been popular with the fans, but his marginal on-ice contributions and goofy personality have often frustrated coaches. Quebec boss Martin Delorme was no exception; he nicknamed Theroux “Coo Coo” on the rare, exasperated occasions when he spoke about the player.
As such, it came as little surprise when Theroux was banished to the Maine Moose, Quebec’s CHL affiliate, to make room for Miller. “I knew as soon as the trade was made, my bags should be packed,” said Theroux.
The story does have a bit of a surprising ending, however: Theroux has sparkled with the Moose, and the fans have embraced him even more than the fans in Quebec did. He already has a fan club, and some female Moose backers have even proposed marriage.
“I think maybe I should run for mayor,” he quipped before Saturday’s game against Colorado Springs. “I have never been this much loved.”
The key to Theroux’s popularity was displaying even more of the goofy personality for which he is known. Although Theroux is a famously superstitious player, he did his best to keep that in check around the serious-minded Delorme. “I knew [Delorme] already thought I was crazy,” Theroux said. “And I knew I was not good enough that he would not get rid of me if I was too crazy.”
But in the minors, Theroux decided to let all of his quirks run free. For instance, when the Moose come onto the ice at the start of each period, Theroux always enters last and skates in the opposite direction of his teammates. He tapes his stick with alternating white and red strips of tape, like a candy cane. During warm-up shooting drills, he performs an elaborate ritual of rhythmic stick taps. On the bench, Theroux knocks back Diet Pepsi instead of Gatorade, making sure to finish one can per period and always picking up the can with his right hand.
Perhaps most notable of all, before the teams line up for the opening puck drop, Theroux kneels down and kisses the logo at center ice. It was this ritual that first garnered the attention of teammates and fans. “The first time he went down to the ice, we thought he’d pulled something,” said D Hampus Olsson. “But then we saw him kiss the Moose, and the fans all started cheering. It was weird.”
Quickly, the fans began embracing Theroux’s superstitions. (The fact that he’s been highly productive with Maine, with 15 points in as many games, likely helped.) They handed him Diet Pepsis as he came down the tunnel. They clapped in time with his pre-game stick taps. They held up signs with slogan such as “Kiss Me Like I’m Center Ice.”
The forward revealed that since he arrived in Maine, he has received numerous date requests and even marriage proposals both in person and on social media. “I am amazed by these women lining up for me,” said Theroux, who is single. “It is wonderful and strange. I guess crazy is sexy now.”
This newfound adulation represents a double-edged sword for Theroux, whose contract is up at the end of the season. While he clearly loves life in Maine, it’s likely that he’ll want to look for an SHL job next season. He’s a capable enough player to land a job almost anywhere, and a starting spot on some teams. Given that, this love affair seems likely to be brief.
But neither Theroux nor Moose fans appear worried about that. Rather, the minor-league town and the goofy forward with the crazy habits are just happy that they’ve found each other.