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Roberto Luongo



 Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo (born April 4, 1979) is a Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League (NHL). Born in MontrealQuebec, he is of Italian and Irish ancestry. He employs the butterfly style of goaltending[1] and has previously played in the NHL for the New York Islanders and the Florida Panthers. Luongo is a two-time NHL Second All-Star (2004 and 2007) and a winner of the William M. Jennings Trophy for backstopping his team to the lowest goals-against average in the league (2011; with backup Cory Schneider). He has additionally been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender (2004, 2007 and 2011), the Lester B. Pearson Award as the top player voted by his peers (2004 and 2007) and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player (2007).[2][3]

Prior to his NHL career, Luongo played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) for the Val-d’Or Foreurs and theAcadie-Bathurst Titan, winning back-to-back President’s Cups and establishing the league’s all-time playoff records in games played and wins.[4] Following his second QMJHL season, Luongo was selected fourth overall by the Islanders in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. After splitting his professional rookie season between the Islanders and their American Hockey League(AHL) affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters in 1999–2000, he was traded to the Panthers. In five seasons with Florida, Luongo established team records for most all-time games played, wins and shutouts. During the 2006 off-season, he was traded to the Canucks after failed contract negotiations with the Panthers. Following his second year with the Canucks, he became the first NHL goaltender to serve as a team captain since Bill Durnan in the 1947–48 season.[5] Luongo served in that capacity for two seasons before resigning from the position in September 2010.[6] In the subsequent 2010–11 season, he helped the Canucks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and lost to the Boston Bruins. During his tenure with Vancouver, Luongo has become the team’s all-time wins and shutouts leader.

Internationally, Luongo has competed for Team Canada in numerous tournaments. As a junior, he won a silver medal at the1999 World Junior Championships, while being named Best Goaltender in his second tournament appearance. Luongo has won two gold medals at the 2003 and 2004 World Championships and a silver in the 2005 World Championships. He also won the 2004 World Cup championship and appeared in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin as a backup to Martin Brodeur in both instances. He succeeded Brodeur as Canada’s starting goaltender during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, winning a gold medal.

Luongo was born to Pasqualina and Antonio Luongo in MontrealQuebec.[7] His father an Italian immigrant, born in Santa PaolinaAvellino.[8] He worked in the construction and delivery of furniture,[7] while Luongo’s mother, an Irish-Canadian[9][10][11] worked in marketing with Air Canada.[7] Antonio and Pasqualina married in Montreal after Antonio emigrated there in 1976.[8]

Luongo has two younger brothers, Leo and Fabio, who were also aspiring goaltenders.[7] Fabio made it the further out of the two, playing Junior A in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Williams Lake Timberwolves in 2004–05 before succumbing to injuries.[12] He has since become a Junior AAA coach, while Leo is a goaltending coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).[9] Luongo and his family lived in St. Leonard, Quebec, a borough north of Montreal with a strong Italian community,[7][10] just four blocks away from Martin Brodeur,[13] who became the goaltender for the New Jersey Devils six years before Luongo entered the NHL. Luongo is fluent in English, French and Italian.[7][10]His father spoke Italian and his mother spoke English with a little French at home.[12]

Luongo graduated from Antoine de St-Exupéry in Montreal, a Francophone high school, in 1996.[12][14] He began playing organized hockey at the age of eight as a forward.[10]His father taught all his sons soccer and Luongo played until he was 14, at which point he decided to concentrate on hockey.[7] Although he initially had the desire to play in net, his parents wanted him to develop his skating first.[10] Several years later, after Luongo was cut from a peewee team, he made the switch to goaltender.[10] At 11 years old, his team’s usual goaltender did not show up and after begging his mother, still hesitant about Luongo playing the position, he went in net and posted a shutout.[15] In August 2009, the arena in which Luongo played his minor hockey in St. Leonard was named after him as the Roberto Luongo Arena. It is the second arena in the community to be named after an NHL goalie after the Martin Brodeur Arena was renamed as such in 2000.[15]

By 15, Luongo was playing midget with Montreal-Bourassa, the same team that produced NHL Quebecer goalies Brodeur and Félix Potvin.[10] Luongo has credited Hall of Famegoaltender Grant Fuhr as his inspiration growing up, citing an admiration for his “spectacular glove saves”.[10] He had the opportunity to first meet Fuhr before a game against the Calgary Flames during his rookie season with the Islanders.[7][10]

Playing career

Junior career (1995–99)

The Val-d’Or Foreurs made Luongo the highest drafted goaltender in QMJHL history at second overall in 1995.[16] He began his junior career in the 1995–96 season with Val-d’Or and posted six wins in 23 games played. As the team’s starting goaltender the following season in 1996–97, he improved to a team-record 32 wins[17] and was awarded theMike Bossy Trophy as the league’s best professional prospect.[18] After his performance at the 1997 CHL Top Prospects Game, opposing coach Don Cherry likened Luongo toMontreal Canadiens‘ Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden, while NHL Central Scouting Bureau director Frank Bonello heralded him as a “franchise goalie”.[16]

At the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Luongo was selected in the first round, fourth overall, by the New York Islanders. The pick originally belonged to the Toronto Maple Leafs but was traded to the Islanders in exchange for Wendel ClarkMathieu Schneider and D. J. Smith.[19][20] At the time of the draft, Luongo was the highest picked goaltender in NHL history, surpassing Tom Barrasso and John Davidson‘s fifth overall selections in 1983 and 1973 (Luongo’s selection was later surpassed by Rick DiPietro‘s first overall selection by the Islanders in 2000).[21][22][23][24][note 1][24]

Upon his draft, Luongo continued to play junior with the Foreurs in 1997–98. He recorded 27 wins and a 3.09 goals against average (GAA). His seven shutouts tied Nick Sanza‘s QMJHL record, set in 1974–75 (Adam Russo later tied it as well in 2002–03).[25] Luongo went on to win 14 of 17 playoff appearances in the QMJHL playoffs to lead Val-d’Or to aPresident’s Cup championship and a Memorial Cup appearance. The Foreurs failed to win a game in the 1998 Memorial Cup tournament, however, and finished in last place.

Although the Islanders planned to have Luongo play in the NHL for the 1998–99 season, an inconsistent performance at training camp led to Luongo’s return to the QMJHL that season.[10] Due to having failed to come to terms on a contract before October 1, 1998, Luongo was not allowed to be called up to the Islanders from junior over the course of the subsequent season.[10] He started the season with Val-d’Or but was traded to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan during the 1999 World Junior Championships for the remainder of the 1998–99 season. He went on to lead the Titan to his second consecutive President’s Cup championship with a 2.74 GAA in 23 games. He finished his QMJHL playoff career with the all-time league record in games played (56), minutes played (3,264:22), wins (38) and shots faced (1,808).[4] His and Memorial Cup appearance in 1999. The Titan finished in last place, failing to win a game during the tournament.

New York Islanders (1999–2000)

After his performance at the 1999 World Junior Championships, Luongo was signed by the Islanders to a three-year, $2.775 million contract on January 8, 1999.[10] Thefollowing season, he made his professional debut with the Lowell Lock Monsters, the Islanders’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. Early in the season, Luongo was called up to the Islanders on November 22, 1999, after a shoulder injury to backup Wade Flaherty.[7] He made his NHL debut six days later on November 28, stopping 43 shots in a 2–1 win against the Boston Bruins.[26] Luongo’s early performances solidified him as the Islanders’ starting goalie over veteran Félix Potvin.[7] Nearly a month after Luongo’s debut in New York, Potvin was traded to the Vancouver Canucks on December 19 in exchange for backup goaltender Kevin Weekes.[27] The next month, he recorded his first career NHL shutout in his eighth game, stopping 34 shots in a 3–0 victory over the Bruins on December 27.[28]

In January 2000, Luongo was publicly criticized by Islanders general manager Mike Milbury for having gone looking for an apartment in New York on a game day before letting in seven goals to the Boston Bruins.[29] Milbury told the media, “You can’t do that in the NHL. You have to prepare yourself.” Luongo defended himself by saying he did not divert from his usual game day routine by looking at just one apartment.[29] Luongo finished the season with the Islanders, posting a 3.25 GAA and .904 save percentage in 24 games.

In the off-season, the Islanders selected goaltender Rick DiPietro with the first overall pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. DiPietro’s selection supplanted Luongo as the highest-drafted goaltender in NHL history and the Islanders’ goaltender of the future.[30] Consequently, Milbury traded Luongo to the Florida Panthers along with centre Olli Jokinen for winger Mark Parrish and centre Oleg Kvasha that same day on June 24, 2000.[30] The deal would later be seen to have disproportionately benefited the Panthers, as both Jokinen and Luongo would eventually develop into star players, in contrast to Parrish and Kvasha.[31] Luongo expressed surprise at the trade, saying “I didn’t expect it at all. One day they’re telling me I’m the goalie of the future, and the next day I’m gone. I didn’t really appreciate that. The good side is that [the Panthers] wanted me.”[32]

Florida Panthers (2000–06)

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Luongo has always worn the number “1” in the NHL.

The Panthers organization expressed high praise for Luongo following the trade. General manager Bryan Murray characterized him as “a franchise guy”, while head coach Terry Murray added “He’s the guy teams have to have to win the Stanley Cup.”[33] He entered his first training camp with the Panthers competing for the starting role with veteran goaltender Trevor Kidd; coach Terry Murray opted to begin the season with Kidd due to his experience.[34] Luongo made his first start with the Panthers on October 9, 2000, making 18 saves in a 4–2 loss to the Boston Bruins.[35] Splitting the goaltending duties, Luongo went on to appear in 43 games, in comparison to Kidd’s 42. He finished his 2000–01 rookie season (Luongo qualified as a rookie because he had not played in at least 26 games the previous season with New York)[36] by notching a franchise record fifth shutout of the season in a 3–0 win against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2001.[37] The total surpassed John Vanbiesbrouck‘s four-shutout mark, set twice in 1994–95 and 1997–98.[38] He posted a 12–24–7 record with the struggling Panthers, who finished 12th in the Eastern Conference, while recording a 2.44 GAA. His .920 save percentage was sixth in the league and second all-time among rookie goaltenders, behind Manny Fernandez‘s mark set the previous season.[39]

Approaching his third NHL season, Luongo agreed on a four-year contract extension with the Panthers on September 13, 2001.[40] He was chosen to play in the inaugural NHL YoungStars Game in 2002 for Team Melrose, winning 13–7 over Team Fox.[41] After appearing in 58 games in 2001–02, Luongo suffered a torn ligament in his right ankle in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on March 20, 2002.[42] Sidelined for the remainder of the season,[42] he finished with a 16–33–4 record, a 2.77 GAA and .915 save percentage. Luongo returned in 2002–03 to a heavier workload, playing a 65-game season. He had a franchise record-setting shutout streak that lasted 144:51 minutes; it was snapped on January 20, 2003, against the Montreal Canadiens.[39] He also recorded his first 20-win season with a 20–34–7 record, 2.71 GAA and .918 save percentage. The Panthers continued to struggle, however, finishing 13th in the East.

In his fourth season with the Panthers (2003–04), Luongo emerged with his first Vezina Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Awardnominations as the top goaltender and top player as selected by the players, respectively.[2] Playing in 72 games, he set NHL marks for most saves and shots faced in a single season with 2,303 and 2,475, respectively.[43] Both marks were previously set by former Islanders teammate Félix Potvin in 1996–97 as a Toronto Maple Leaf.[44] His resulting .931 save percentage was first among goalies with at least 50 starts[43] and set a Panthers franchise record, breaking Vanbiesbrouck’s .924 mark, set in 1993–94.[45] His seven shutouts furthered his franchise record and was good for fifth in the league.[43] At mid-season, he was named to his first NHL All-Star Game, held in February 2004. Competing for the Eastern Conference, he won the Goaltenders Competition segment of the SkillsCompetition, allowing the fewest goals on goaltender-related events.[46] The following day, he played in the third period of the All-Star Game and helped the East to a 6–4 win against the West.[47] At the end of the season, he was named to the Second NHL All-Star Team, but lost the Vezina Trophy to fellow Montreal-native Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, while Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Pearson Award.[2] Despite Luongo’s success, however, the Panthers failed to qualify for the playoffs once more.

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Atlanta Thrashers forward Peter Bondra scores on Luongo during the 2005-06 Season

Due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Luongo was inactive, with the exception of two international tournaments, the 2004 World Cup and the 2005 World Championships. With the NHL set to resume in 2005–06, Luongo was without a contract. After negotiations failed, the Panthers filed for arbitration on August 11, 2005.[43] The process awarded Luongo a one-year, $3.2 million contract on August 25.[48]

On April 13, 2006, Luongo became the winningest Panthers goaltender of all-time, passing Vanbiesbrouck,[49] with his 107th win with the team – a 5–4 overtime victory against the Ottawa Senators.[50] He went on to post 35 wins, breaking Vanbiesbrouck’s 27-win single-season Panthers mark, set in 1996–97.[51] Set to become a free agent for the second consecutive off-season, he could not come to an agreement with the Panthers, having formally turned down a five-year, $30 million contract offer in January 2006.[52] It was also reported that among Luongo’s demands were that backup goaltender Jamie McLennan be re-signed, his long-time goaltending coach François Allaire be hired[53] and that a public statement be released that he would not be traded until the no-trade clause of his contract took effect.[54]

Vancouver Canucks (2006–present)

2006–09

Prior to the start of the 2006–07 season, Panthers general manager Mike Keenan traded Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks on June 23, 2006. He was packaged with defenceman Lukáš Krajíček and a sixth round draft pick (Sergei Shirokov) in exchange for forward Todd Bertuzzi, defenceman Bryan Allen and goaltender Alex Auld.[55]Immediately following the deal, Vancouver signed Luongo to a four-year, $27 million deal.[55] He expressed surprise, claiming that he and the Panthers were very close to a deal the day before the trade.[56]

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Luongo with Chris Kunitz at the lip of his crease in 2006

Luongo’s arrival in Vancouver ended a seven-and-a-half-year period of instability for Canucks netminding, with a total of 18 goaltenders having played for the club since Kirk McLean‘s departure in 1998.[12] General manager Brian Burke had coined the term “goalie graveyard” during his tenure in Vancouver to describe the club’s goaltending fortunes.[57]

Luongo recorded a 3–1 win against the Detroit Red Wings in his Canucks debut on October 5, 2006.[58] Later in the month, he notched his first shutout with the Canucks, stopping 32 shots in a 5–0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on October 25.[59] On January 9, 2007, Luongo was voted in as a starting goaltender for the first time in his career for the Western Conference All-Stars.[60] Six days after the announcement, he was hospitalized after taking a puck to the throat in practice. He spent the night in the intensive care unit for fears his windpipe would swell shut.[61] Discharged from the hospital on game day, Luongo recorded a shutout that night against the Montreal Canadiens on January 16, 2007.[61] During the 2007 NHL All-Star Game in Dallas, Luongo was named the Skills Competition’s top goaltender[62] and helped the West to a 12–9 win over the East.[63] Late in the season, Luongo recorded his franchise record-setting 39th win in a 2–1 overtime victory on March 9. He surpassed Kirk McLean’s 38-win mark set in 1991–92.[64] He went on to finish with a career-high 47 wins, one shy of league-leader Martin Brodeur, who brokeBernie Parent‘s thirty-three-year-old NHL record of wins in a season. Luongo and Brodeur are considered, however, to have been given an advantage to Parent with the inauguration of the shootout that season by the NHL, allowing more games to be decided with wins, as opposed to ties.[65]

In addition to his 47 wins, Luongo recorded a 2.29 GAA (which was at that time, a personal best) and a team-record .921 save percentage (surpassing Dan Cloutier‘s .914 save percentage in 2003–04; later broken by Cory Schneider‘s .929 save percentage in 2010–11).[66] He won three team awards – the Cyclone Taylor Trophy as MVP, the Molson Cup as the player with the most three-star selections, and the Most Exciting Player Award.[67] Leading the Canucks to a Northwest Division title and what was then a franchise record of 105 points,[68] the team was seeded third in the Western Conference. The 2007 playoffs marked Luongo’s first NHL post-season appearance. Facing the Dallas Starsin the opening round, he almost set an NHL record for most saves in a playoff game in his post-season debut. He stopped 72 shots, en route to a 5–4 quadruple overtime victory, one save shy of Kelly Hrudey‘s 73-save mark set in 1987.[69] Luongo went on to win his first playoff series as the Canucks eliminated the Stars in seven games. They were, however, defeated in the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Ducks. Luongo put forth a losing 56-save performance in the deciding fifth game against the Ducks. After the game ended in regulation at a 1–1 tie, he missed the first three minutes of the first overtime period to what was first believed to be an equipment malfunction. However, after the series ended, it was revealed that Luongo, instead, had an untimely case of diarrhea.[70] The Canucks lost the game 2–1 in the second overtime when Luongo took his eye off the puck to look at the referee, believing a penalty should have been issued to the Ducks on a play in which Canucks forwardJannik Hansen was hit by Ducks forward Rob Niedermayer. With Luongo not paying attention, Ducks defenceman Scott Niedermayer shot the puck from the point to score the series-winning goal.[71]

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Luongo during the 2007–08 season

At the end of the season, Luongo was nominated for three major NHL awards: the Vezina Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award and Hart Memorial Trophy as the league MVP. However, Luongo finished second in voting for all three awards, behind Brodeur for the Vezina and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Hart and Pearson.[3]

Luongo kept pace statistically in 2007–08 with his previous season’s work and continued to set significant marks, including a three-game shutout streak spanning 210:34 in late-November (breaking the Canucks’ previous franchise record of 184:20 set by Ken Lockett in 1975).[72] He was voted in as the 2008 NHL All-Star Game‘s Western Conference starting goalie for the second consecutive season, although he did not attend in order to be with his pregnant wife in Florida.[73]

With the Canucks battling for the Northwest Division title all season long, a losing streak that saw Luongo win only one of his final eight starts[74] caused the Canucks to miss the playoffs altogether. Nevertheless, he received his second consecutive team MVP and Molson Cup awards.[75] He also finished seventh in Vezina Trophy balloting.[76] At the Canucks’ end-of-season media address, Vigneault speculated whether Luongo’s heavy regular season workload, having started the team’s final 31 games, was a factor in the late-season collapse.[74] He finished the season with a 35–29–9 record, 2.38 GAA and .917 save percentage.

On September 30, 2008, prior to the start of the 2008–09 season, Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis and head coachAlain Vigneault named Luongo the 12th captain in team history, replacing the departed Markus Näslund.[5] The decision was unconventional, as league rules forbid goaltenders from being captains.[77] As such, Luongo became only the seventh goaltender in NHL history to be named a captain, and the first since Bill Durnan captained the Montreal Canadiens in 1947–48 (after whom the league implemented the rule).[5] In order to account for the league rule, Luongo did not perform any of the on-ice duties reserved for captains and did not wear the captain’s “C” on his jersey. During his first season as captain, he had a small “C” painted on the chin of his mask.[78] Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell was designated to handle communications with on-ice officials, while defenceman Mattias Öhlund was responsible for ceremonial faceoffs and other such formalities associated with captaincy.[5] Centre Ryan Kesler was chosen along with Mitchell and Öhlund as the third alternate captain.[5]

A month into the 2008–09 season, Luongo began a shutout streak that lasted three games against the Nashville PredatorsPhoenix Coyotes, and the Minnesota Wild, akin to the feat he accomplished in the same month of November the previous year.[79] His overall shutout streak was snapped at 242:36 minutes, in a 2–1 shootout loss against theColorado Avalanche, surpassing the Canucks record he set the previous season.[80] Later that month, on November 22, Luongo left a game versus the Pittsburgh Penguins after suffering an adductor strain in his groin. Initially listed as week-to-week,[81] he attempted what was considered an early comeback within two weeks of the injury, but suffered a setback during a team practice on December 10, leaving early in discomfort.[82] After missing 24 games, Luongo made his return on January 15, 2009, in a 4–1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.[83] While injured, Luongo was chosen for the fourth time to the NHL All-Star Game in 2009 as the lone Canucks representative.[84] Despite speculation he would have to miss his second straight All-Star Game,[85] Luongo recovered in time and took part in a 12–11 shootout loss to the Eastern Conference. He finished the season with back-to-back shutouts in the final two games against the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche to establish a new career-high of nine shutouts on the season, breaking Dan Cloutier‘s previous franchise single-season shutout record of seven, set in 2001–02.[86][87]

Winning their second Northwest Division title in three years, Luongo and the Canucks returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence. During the 2009 playoffs, he led the Canucks to a first round sweep of the St. Louis Blues. The Canucks then faced the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, which Chicago ultimately won in six games. Luongo was heavily criticized following his performance in the sixth and deciding game, allowing seven goals in the 7–5 loss. In a post-game interview, Luongo told reporters that he “let [his] teammates down”.[88] Many in the Vancouver media were quick to suggest trading Luongo, arguing that his large salary could be better spent, while pointing to several successful teams with relatively low-salary goalies.[89][90] Nevertheless, Luongo was presented at the year-end awards ceremony with the Scotiabank Fan Fav Award, a fan-voted award in its inaugural year for the league’s favourite player.[91] Also finishing fourth in Vezina Trophy voting, he missed out on his second nomination in three years by one vote,[92] behind Niklas Bäckström of the Minnesota WildSteve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets and trophy-winner Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins.[93]

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Luongo during the Canucks’ training camp in September 2009

2009–11

With one season left on his original four-year deal with the Canucks, Luongo and agent Gilles Lupien began contract negotiations with general manager Mike Gillis in the 2009 off-season. At the time of the 2009 NHL Entry DraftESPN reported that Luongo and the Canucks had agreed on a long-term extension to be announced on July 1. The report was, however, denied by both Lupien and Gillis.[94] A little over a month later in early-August, Gillis told Vancouver sports radio station TEAM 1040 in an interview that he was “philosophically” close to a deal with Luongo to be signed before the upcoming 2009–10 season.[95] That same month, while at Team Canada‘s summer camp for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Luongo set a September 13 deadline to sign a contract before the Canucks’ training camp began, explaining that he “will not be negotiating during the season … [not wanting] that distraction”.[96]

Several days later, on September 2, the Canucks announced that they had signed Luongo to a 12-year contract extension worth $64 million for a $5.33 million annual salary cap hit.[97] The front-loaded deal, which will expire by the time Luongo is 43 and includes a no-trade clause, sees him make $10 million in 2010–11, then approximately $6.7 million annually through to 2017–18, $3.3 million and $1.6 million the subsequent two seasons, before tailing off to $1 million for the final two years.[97] The contract contains two additional clauses to circumvent the no-trade clause that allow Luongo to facilitate a trade after the fifth year and for the Canucks to also facilitate a trade after the seventh year.[98]

Nearly a month into the 2009–10 season, on October 25, 2009, Luongo recorded his 21st shutout as a Canuck (48th career) in a 2–0 win against the Edmonton Oilers, surpassing Kirk McLean as the franchise shutouts leader.[99] The following game against the Detroit Red Wings on October 27, he suffered a rib injury that was revealed the following day to be a hairline fracture. Luongo originally injured his rib two games prior against the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 24 after taking a shot from Leafs forward Niklas Hagman in the chest. The injury was re-aggravated during the Detroit game during a collision with Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi.[100] He returned to the lineup on November 10 after missing six games.[101] On January 7, 2010, Luongo recorded his 50th career shutout in a 4–0 win against the Phoenix Coyotes.[102] Despite recording the second 40-win season of his career, Luongo finished with his worst statistical season as a Canuck, heavily affected by a poor second-half.[103] Pulled seven times in 68 appearances,[104]he recorded a 2.57 GAA and a .913 save percentage. In the subsequent 2010 playoffs, the Canucks defeated the Los Angeles Kings in six games only to be defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks for the second year in a row.[105] In similar fashion to the previous year, Luongo struggled in the second round series against Chicago, allowing 21 goals in six games, including 5 in the deciding sixth game. He finished the playoffs with a 3.22 GAA and .895 save percentage.

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Luongo makes a save during a pre-game warmup in 2010

In the off-season, it was speculated by many in the media whether Luongo should remain Vancouver’s captain, citing the added pressure of the goaltending position.[106] After the Canucks’ 3–1 series deficit in the second round, Luongo ceased to make himself available for pre-game interviews – a customary practice for goaltenders, but not for captains.[106] When asked after the Canucks’ elimination whether he thought he should remain team captain, he told reporters he did not think it was an issue.[106]However, Gillis, who appointed him captain two seasons prior, asserted it was a topic to be addressed in the off-season.[106] On September 13, 2010, Luongo confirmed he was stepping down, stating that “Serv[ing] as captain…in a Canadian city for a team with such passionate fans is a privilege and an experience I will always take pride in. I will continue to be a leader on this team and support my teammates the same way I always have while focusing on our ultimate goal.”[6] Centre Henrik Sedin, who won the Hart Trophy for the 2009–10 season, was named Luongo’s successor in a pre-game ceremony to the Canucks’ season-opener.[107]

Also in the off-season, Gillis fired Luongo’s goaltending coach Ian Clark and hired Roland Melanson in his place. Luongo had been a personal friend of Clark’s and publicly stated being surprised and disappointed with the switch. The decision to hire Melanson was largely precipitated on his willingness to work with Luongo on a full-time basis – something Clark was unable to do. Despite the coaching change at the club level, Luongo retained Clark as his personal coach for his summer training.[108] He began working with Melanson leading up to the 2010–11 season and employed several changes in his playing style, which included playing deeper into his crease instead of challenging shooters.[109]

During the 2010 pre-season, Luongo sustained a groin injury, but recovered in time for the regular season. Midway through the campaign, Luongo was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Month for December 2010. He posted an 11–1–2 record with a 2.07 GAA, a .922 save percentage and one shutout.[110] During the month, he started a 21-game regulation unbeaten streak that lasted until a loss against the St. Louis Blues on February 14, 2011. Luongo’s record in that span was 16 wins and 5 overtime or shootout losses.[111] Later in the campaign, he recorded his 300th career win against the Los Angeles Kings on March 5, 2011. He became the 6th-youngest goaltender to reach the milestone and the 25th overall.[112] The 2010–11 season constituted a decreased workload for Luongo, as he appeared in 60 games. Team management had asserted at the beginning of the campaign that rookie backup Cory Schneider would be given the opportunity to play in 20 to 25 games.[113] Luongo finished the season with a league-leading 38 wins, along with 22 losses (15 in regulation and 7 in overtime or a shootout). His career-high 2.11 GAA ranked second in the league, behind Tim Thomas’ 2.00,[114] and set a Canucks record, surpassing Dan Cloutier’s 2.27 GAA, set in 2003–04.[115] While his .928 save percentage improved upon his team-record setting .921 in 2006–07, it was bettered by one-hundredth of a point by Schneider.[116] Together, Luongo and Schneider won the William M. Jennings Trophy for leading the Canucks to the lowest GAA in the league; their combined 2.20 GAA was one-tenth better than the Boston Bruins‘s second-place goaltending tandem of Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask.[117] Luongo helped the Canucks to their first Presidents’ Trophy in team history with an NHL-best and franchise-record 54 wins and 117 points. His efforts in the regular season earned him his third career Vezina Trophy nomination, alongside the Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas and the Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne.[118]

2011 Playoffs

Entering the 2011 playoffs as the first seed in the West, the Canucks were matched against the Blackhawks for the third straight year. After opening the series with three straight wins, the Canucks lost the next three, forcing a seventh game. After he was pulled in favour of Schneider during Games 4 and 5 – having allowed six and four goals, respectively – Luongo started Game 6 on the bench.[119][120] During the third period, Schneider suffered an injury, forcing Luongo to finish the game. He made 12 saves in relief of Schneider before Blackhawks forward Ben Smith scored in overtime.[121] Although Schneider was available to play for Game 7, Vigneault chose to start Luongo. He made 31 saves in the deciding game, helping the Canucks to a 2–1 overtime win. His efforts included a cross-ice save on a one-timer from forward Patrick Sharp during a Blackhawks powerplay early on in the extra period.[122] Going head-to-head against fellow Vezina Trophy nominee Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators in round two, Luongo kept Nashville to 11 goals over 6 games to help the Canucks advance. He maintained his performance in the Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks, allowing 13 goals over 5 contests, including 54 saves in the fifth and deciding match, a game that went to double overtime. Luongo’s efforts helped the Canucks reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 years.[123] He opened the series against the Boston Bruins stopping all 36 shots in a 1–0 win for his third shutout of the post-season.[124] As the series shifted to Boston’s TD Garden with a two-games-to-none Canucks lead, Luongo surrendered eight goals in Game 3.[125] The following contest, he was pulled for the third time in the playoffs after allowing 4 goals on 20 shots.[126] Amidst heavy scrutiny from the media and Canucks fans,[127][128] Luongo recovered for Game 5, stopping all 31 Bruins shots in a 1–0 win.[129] It was his 15th win and 4th shutout of the post-season, tying both of Kirk McLean’s single-year playoff team records, previously set in 1994.[130] With an opportunity to clinch the Stanley Cup in Game 6, however, he was pulled again after allowing three goals in less than three minutes in the first period; the game ended in a 5–2 loss.[131] Starting for the deciding seventh game, he allowed 3 goals on 20 shots, including one shorthanded goal, as the Canucks lost 4–0.[132]

2011–present

 Roberto Luongo

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Luongo in January 2012

Nearly a month-and-a-half into the 2011–12 season, Luongo suffered an upper-body injury that sidelined him for two games.[133] The nature of the injury was unspecified, but was believed to have occurred during a game against the Islanders on November 13, 2011, when he appeared to be in discomfort.[134] Prior to the injury, Luongo was struggling to perform with statistics near the bottom of the league.[135] Upon recovering, Schneider’s play relegated Luongo to backup status for five games.[136][137] By December, he resumed as the team’s starter with improved performance.[138] The following month, Luongo reached a pair of milestones. On January 4, 2012, he became the 23rd goalie in league history to play in his 700th game,[139] a contest in which he recorded a 3–0 shutout against the Wild.[140] With his 212th victory as a Canuck on January 21 (a 4–3 win against the Sharks), he surpassed Kirk McLean as the winningest goalie in team history. Luongo accomplished the feat in 364 games, 152 less than McLean.[141] Appearing in 55 games in 2011–12, Luongo recorded 31 wins, 14 losses and 8 overtime or shootout losses. He had a 2.41 GAA, .919 save percentage and five shutouts. His efforts helped the Canucks to a second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy for the regular season.

Facing the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Vancouver lost their first two games with Luongo in net. After Vigneault opted to start Schneider for game three, Luongo did not play the rest of the series, which Vancouver lost four games to one. Dressing as a backup for the Canucks’ final three playoff games led many in the media to believe that Luongo would be traded in the off-season, in favour of Schneider, who recorded better regular season and playoff statistics than him in 2011–12.[142] Asked about his role with the Canucks following the defeat, Luongo told reporters that he would waive his no-trade clause if management asked him to.[143]

International career

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Luongo during the quarterfinal against Russia at the2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver
Medal record
Competitor for 22px Flag of Canada.svg Roberto Luongo Canada
Ice hockey
Winter Olympics
Gold 2010 Vancouver
World Championships
Silver 2005 Austria
Gold 2004 Czech Republic
Gold 2003 Finland
World Cup
Gold 2004 Canada
World Junior Championships
Silver 1999 Canada
Competitor for 22px Flag of Quebec.svg Roberto Luongo Quebec
World U-17 Hockey Challenge
Bronze 1995 Canada

Luongo made his international debut at the 1995 World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Moncton, New Brunswick, with Team Québec, winning bronze.[39] Three years later, he was named to the Canadian national junior team for the 1998 World Junior Championships in Finland. He played backup to Victoriaville Tigres goaltender Mathieu Garon,[144] going winless in three appearances with a 3.70 GAA, as Canada finished in eighth place. Luongo became the starting goaltender the following year at the 1999 World Junior Championships in WinnipegManitoba, appearing in seven of Canada’s eight games.[145] He recorded a shutout in the first game of the tournament against the Czech Republic, making 36 saves in a 0–0 tie.[146] He went on to help Team Canada to the gold medal game against Russia, but lost in overtime, surrendering a goal to Artem Chubarov.[147] With a 1.92 GAA and two shutouts, Luongo was given Best Goaltender and All-Star Team honours.[148]

Luongo first appeared with the Canadian men’s team at the 2001 World Championships in Germany. He played backup to Fred Brathwaite of the Calgary Flames before injuring his finger during the first game of the qualification round against Switzerland on May 4, 2001.[86] Luongo returned home to Florida, as Vancouver Canucks goaltender Dan Cloutier replaced him,[86] ending his tournament debut with a 1.44 GAA in two games. Canada finished in fifth place.

During his next appearance at the 2003 World Championships in Finland, Luongo began the tournament as backup to thePhoenix Coyotes‘ Sean Burke. He earned wins against Latvia in the preliminaries and Switzerland in the qualifying round. During the semifinals against the Czech Republic, Luongo replaced Burke after he left the game with a lower-body injury eight minutes into the second period. Luongo allowed four goals in relief, but earned the win as Canada defeated the Czechs 8–4.[149][150] With Burke still out for the gold medal game, Luongo made 49 saves against Sweden in a 3–2 overtime win.[151] Despite Luongo’s medal round efforts, Burke was named the Best Goaltender for the tournament, as he played in the majority of Team Canada’s games.[151] The gold-medal winning 2003 team was later named the Canadian Press national sports team of the year on January 2, 2004.[152]

Luongo made his third appearance at the World Championships in 2004 in the Czech Republic. He played in seven games as the starting goaltender, recording a 2.32 GAA and one shutout, as Canada captured its second straight gold medal at the tournament, beating Sweden 5–3 in the final.[153] Several months later, Luongo competed for Team Canada in the 2004 World Cup as backup to Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils. It marked Luongo’s first international tournament in which all NHL players were eligible, as the annual World Championships conflict with the Stanley Cup playoffs. He had another opportunity to step in for the starting goalie when Brodeur pulled himself out prior to the semi-final game against the Czech Republic due to a sprained wrist.[154] Filling in for Brodeur, Luongo made 37 of 40 stops in a 4–3 overtime victory to put Team Canada into the finals against Finland.[155] Brodeur returned for the championship game to backstop Team Canada to a 3–2 win.[156]

Luongo appeared in his fourth World Championships in 2005. Due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, all NHL players were available for the tournament in Austria, and Luongo played backup to Brodeur.[157] He appeared in two games, including a shutout win againstSlovenia in the round-robin.[158] Luongo earned a silver medal as Team Canada was shut out by the Czech Republic 3–0 in the final.[159]

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Luongo carrying the Canadian flag after the gold medal win against the United States at the2010 Winter Olympics

Luongo was named to his first Winter Olympics in 2006. The tournament was held in Turin, Italy, his country of cultural origin. He again played behind Brodeur and appeared in two games. He made his Olympic debut in the second game of the round-robin with a 5–1 win against Germany.[160] His second appearance of the tournament was a loss to Finland, also in the round-robin.[161] Team Canada had entered the tournament as the defending gold medal champions from the 2002 Winter Olympics, but were eliminated facing Russia in the quarter-finals and finished in seventh place.

Leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, to be held in Luongo’s NHL hometown of Vancouver, Luongo and Brodeur were considered locks to be named to the national team heading into the summer orientation camp in August 2009 and speculation began as to who would be appointed the starting position.[162][163] On December 31, 2009, Luongo was selected to Team Canada, along with Brodeur and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins as the three goaltenders.[164] Luongo was given the start for the first game against Norway. He recorded his first Olympic shutout, making 15 saves in an 8–0 win to open the tournament.[165] After Brodeur surrendered four goals in a 5–3 loss to the United States in their final preliminary game, Luongo replaced him as the starting goalie.[166] He helped Canada to four consecutive single-elimination game wins against Germany, Russia, Slovakia and the United States to capture the gold medal. During the semifinal against Slovakia, Luongo made a game-saving stop against Canucks teammate Pavol Demitra with nine seconds to go in regulation.[167] With Slovakia’s goaltender pulled and down by a goal, the puck bounced to Demitra by the side of the net. Out of position, Luongo managed to get his glove on the puck, deflecting it away from the net and preserving the win.[167] In the subsequent gold medal game, Luongo made 34 saves in Canada’s overtime win against the United States.[168]

The following month, Luongo carried the torch into Robson Square in Downtown Vancouver for the 2010 Paralympics on March 11, 2010.[169]

Playing style

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Luongo employing the butterfly position to make a save.

Luongo plays in the butterfly style of goaltending, dropping to his knees with his skates pointing outwards and his pads meeting in the middle in order to cover the bottom portion of the net.[1] Due to the style of play, groin injuries are common for butterfly goalies.[1] Luongo suffered one during the 2008–09 season and missed 24 games.[83]

An athletic goaltender, Luongo is known for having quick reflexes,[170] particularly with his glove.[171] One of Luongo’s early goaltending coaches, François Allaire, has remembered Luongo to have had the “best catching glove [he’d] ever seen in a kid” when he first came to his goaltending school in Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé, Québec, at the age of 14.[171] Allaire is known to be a strong proponent of the butterfly style.[16] At 6 feet and 3 inches, Luongo is able to cover a lot of net with his size.[171] Observers also note the strong concentration, competitiveness and mental aspects of his game.[16][171] On the other hand, his puck-handling skills have been described as a weakness.[12]

His style began to be directed during his midget years with Allaire and Montreal-Bourassa goaltending coach Mario Baril.[16] Luongo sent tapes of his play to Allaire during his rookie season in the QMJHL and his former goaltending coach advised him to be more aggressive and come out of the net more to cut off angles and challenge shooters.[16] Later in his NHL career, the Canucks hired a new goaltending coach, Roland Melanson, prior to the 2010–11 season. Working with Melanson, Luongo began playing deeper in his crease against Allaire’s original advice, allowing him to maintain positioning for rebounds.[109] The following season, Melanson further tweaked Luongo’s style, encouraging him to extend and elevate his glove after his hand’s usual low positioning was interpreted to have become a weakness.[138]

Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault has said that Luongo plays best with more playing time over the length of the season.[172] Throughout his career, he has garnered lots of playing time, including four consecutive 70-game seasons from 2003–04 to 2007–08 between the Florida Panthers and Canucks. He has been known to suffer from slow starts to the season, usually in the first month of October.[173] In his first three Octobers with the Canucks, Luongo posted a combined 10–13–0 record and a .899 save percentage[174] – numbers that are well below his career pace.{{#tag:ref|In October 2010, he allowed 20 goals over 7 games (2 wins and 4 losses). The following year, he opened the season with a 3.45 GAA and .868 save percentage over seven games.[135]

Luongo is also known for his leadership qualities. He received the Mark Messier Leadership Award in his first season with the Canucks for the month of March 2007.[175] Prior to his third season with Vancouver, he was named Markus Näslund‘s successor as team captain and the first goaltender to be named a captain in 59 years.[5] TeammateMattias Öhlund, who served as alternate captain to Luongo for one season, described him as a vocal leader,[176] while Luongo has also identified that quality in himself.[9]General manager Mike Gillis described his commitment level as “unprecedented”, adding that “he’d be a great example for our younger guys”, at the time of the captaincy announcement.[176] He served in that capacity for two seasons before stepping down prior to the 2010–11 season.[6]

Personal life

While playing with the Florida Panthers, Luongo met his wife, Gina Cerbone, at a team hangout called the Pizza Time Trattoria. Gina is the daughter of the Italian restaurant owner, Umberto Cerbone,[54][177] who is originally from Naples, while Gina’s mother is from Palermo.[11] Luongo proposed to Gina under the Bridge of Sighs in Venice in 2004.[11] They lived in Broward County, Florida, during his tenure with the Panthers.[54] However within a month of moving into a new home in Florida, Luongo was traded to Vancouver.[9] They subsequently moved into the Vancouver neighbourhood of Yaletown,[12] while spending Luongo’s off-seasons in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[178] Their first child, Gabriella, was born on March 27, 2008.[179] Luongo had been chosen as a starting goaltender for the 2008 NHL All-Star Game, but he chose not to attend in order to be with Gina, who was pregnant with Gabriella at the time and had returned to Florida.[179] On December 27, 2010, Gina gave birth to the couple’s second child, Gianni Antonio.[180]

Luongo is involved with several charities. Like many Canucks players, he has spent time with Canuck Place, a children’s hospice in Vancouver.[9] He also sponsors a spectator’s box in Rogers Arena that is reserved for underprivileged children to attend Canucks games.[9] At the end of games in which he has been named one of the three stars, he has been known to give away his goalie stick to a fan in the crowd.[9] In the summer of 2009, he hosted the Roberto Luongo Golf Open to benefit Montreal Children’s Hospital, Sainte-Justine Hospital, and a seniors centre network in Saint-Léonard.[9]

In addition to being an avid golfer, Luongo also enjoys playing poker.[9]

In September 2011, Luongo was inducted into the Italian Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario.[181]

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