Cheers from “Luuuuu!” It sounded again Thursday at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena as the Canucks honored a trio of former players.
The well-known eloquent ovations came as former goalkeeper Roberto Luongo stood in midfield with his former teammates, Daniel and Henrik Sedin. All three were recognized for their recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame ahead of a game between the Canucks and Florida Panthers.
Luongo thanked the standing crowd for supporting the trio.
“Personally, I want to say a big thank you to you for pushing me to be a better goalkeeper, for making me a better person every night,” he added.
Video tributes, narrated by former coach Alain Vigneault, played on the big screen and each of the three players received a traditional blanket from First Nations leaders. Flanked by the Sedins, Luongo performed the ceremonial puck drop.
Rogers Arena has long held a special place for Luongo.
It is the rink where he took Team Canada to Olympic gold in 2010 and the venue where he and his Canucks teammates reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 before falling to the Boston Bruins in Game 7.
“Those playoff runs, those were the best moments of my career,” the netminder told reporters on Thursday. “So I want to be able to relive them here a little bit in the near future and take it in and thank the fans for everything. I think it’s a nice way to end it all.”
It won’t be the last time the 43-year-old Montreal resident is recognized in front of a crowd in Vancouver. The Canucks announced on Wednesday that he will join the team’s ring of honor next season.
“It’s a great honor. I’m really excited about it,” said Luongo, who now serves as Florida’s director of goaltending and as a special advisor to general manager Bill Zito. have done for eight years is going to be recognized and I’m very grateful to be able to go up there with those guys.”
Originally drafted fourth overall by the New York Islanders in 1997, Luongo spent eight seasons with the Canucks.
While in Vancouver, the team made the playoffs five seasons in a row. It was a special group that made that run, according to the netminder.
“It was incredible,” he said. “And sometimes, when you’re in it, you don’t even realize it. But then you move on, you play for other teams, teams change. And looking back now, it’s like you realize how special the group was and it was a unique group, right?
“We had different kinds of personalities in the dressing room. And I think that’s what made us so good.”
Luongo finished his career with the Panthers, spending five seasons in the Florida crease before announcing his retirement after the 2018/19 season.
He remains the Canucks’ franchise leader in wins (252) and shutouts (38), and tops the charts in save percentage (.919) and goals-against average (2.36) among goalies who played at least 100 games.
That success has prompted many in Vancouver to consider whether to retire his jersey — a decision Luongo says is beyond his control.
He told the crowd Thursday night that neither honor is held in high esteem.
“I know there is a lot of discussion about the ring of honor and the (jersey retirement) but I don’t care,” he said. “What’s important to me is these moments and sharing them with you.”
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
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