Willes: Luongo will be remembered for everything he's been to Vancouver


You look at the Vancouver Canucks nowadays and it's hard to find someone who can give you an overview of what Roberto Luongo means for that franchise.

The front office? Well, Stan Smyl is still around, remember that the Steamer could provide a meat quote on Lars Lindgren's legacy. General manager Jim Benning and his assistant John Weisbrod have arrived after Luongo's confused divorce with the club, and it's the same story for coach Travis Green. Players? There are exactly two that were with the team when Luongo was traded to Florida in March 2014: Alex Edler and Chris Tanev.

Thus, given the resources available, it is difficult to write the comprehensive piece that puts Luongo's career in perspective. To be sure, your statistical line tells a story. But the larger narrative with the great goalkeeper has always transcended the numbers because, from the moment he arrived in town, Luongo played the leading role in one of the most fascinating sports dramas in B.C.

The Montrealer, who is 40 in April, did the initial task for the Florida Panthers at Sunday's Canucks meeting in what could be his last appearance in the building he once had. It's been a tough season for the future Hall of Famer – save a percentage below 900, ripped off three of the six tournaments recently – but against his former team he resurrected part of his old form, stopping 31 of 34 pitches in the Canucks . Victory by 5-1 with two empty goals and a nonsense late mark by Markus Granlund.

Roberto Luongo stops Brock Boeser in the first period.



Ben Hutton's third-period goal stood out as the winner but, with the crowd singing his name, Luongo kept things close. And, yes, the crowd's reaction meant something to him.

"It's always good to come back here," Luongo said. "The fans are great. It's always special to me. There will always be a special place in my heart. "

He was asked if this could be his last game in Vancouver.

"I do not know where it came from," he said. "I did not talk about it. It was fun to see a lot of people talking about it."

But it seems that we are always talking about Luongo in this market.

The former city prince is now tying the eighth hole of his career and he lasts so long that his contract is no longer a drug. Late last season he joined Marty Brodeur and Patrick Roy as the only goalkeepers in NHL history to play 1,000 career games. If he wins another 10 games this season, he will go through Ed Belfour in fourth place in career wins.

That, at least, is his place in the NHL history books. As for his place in Canucks' history, he says that Luongo remains an endless figure for the faithful, despite spending less than half of his career in Vancouver.

Alex Burrows celebrates with Roberto Luongo after winning the Western Conference Trophy after the Canucks beat the San Jose Sharks in overtime in the fifth playoff game of the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Mark van Manen /


Looking back over his time with the Canucks, it now looks like Luongo was not a keeper, but rather the central character in an epic novel. The big traits – he is the fourth-largest Canuck of all time, behind the Sedins and Pavel Bure, and his leading role in Canucks' best team cemented his place in the franchise tradition.

But the fascination for Luongo is elsewhere. He came across a blockbuster trade with the Panthers prior to the 2006-07 season and immediately authored one of the five best individual seasons in Canucks history, helping to change the direction of the franchise. Yes, the Sedins were emerging as elite players and Ryan Kesler was a force. But the Luongo was the base on which the Canucks built a championship quality team, averaging 64 starts, 39 wins, with a reduction of 0.920 per season in the six seasons between 2006-07 and 2011-12.

Still, it was the other thing that captivated his audience. In one of the most difficult decisions of the Gillis government, he was named the captain of the team. before the 2008-09 season. That spring he allowed seven goals in a 7-5 loss to Chicago in the second round of the playoffs and cried in front of the TV cameras. Before the start of next season, he signed the infamous 12-year, $ 64 million deal, a contract that, among other things, led the NHL to change long-term contract rules at the next CBA.

Remarkably, this contract still hangs over the Canucks' head.

Bo Horvat kicks out behind Florida Panthers goalkeeper Roberto Luongo in the Canucks' 5-1 win Sunday.



Luongo and the team, however, were entering their peak years and you know what happened there. As for what happened next, well, we do not have room to recount everything, but there was a controversy over goalkeepers with Cory Schneider, a trade near Toronto, a trade of Schneider, a year tortured under Torts, highlighted by a contempt in the Heritage Classic, and finally trade back to Florida.

As mentioned, there was a lot going on in those years, but in the midst of all this intrigue, something wonderful happened to the relationship between the goalkeeper and the Canucks fans. A kind of mercurial in his early years here and something of a diva, Luongo shifted his image through his intensely human reaction to the events that raged around him. It helped to dominate social media. But there was also raw honesty about him that fans could relate to. He could be funny, he could be frustrated, he could be exultant, but you never had to wonder what he was feeling and in a world where the directors try so hard to hide their emotions, Luongo was an open book.

This book is coming to an end. He has been many things in his two decades but in this province he will always be remembered for all that he was.

There are worse ways to be remembered.


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