VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — One of the most recognizable Vancouver Canucks was honoured Saturday at a ceremony on the opposite side of the continent.
Roberto Luongo watched as the Florida Panthers added his name and number to the rafters in the Sunrise arena ahead of the Panther’s game against the Canadiens.
Sportsnet 650’s Adam Forsythe says that while he believes the former captain’s jersey will eventually hang at Rogers Arena, it may take some time for that to happen.
“I think they kind of have to let the ice melt a little bit over the foreseeable future before Longo gets his jersey retired but I think we’re stepping in the right direction with Longo attending the Sedin’s jersey retirement. I think that was a real positive step towards repairing may be somewhat of a complicated relationship,” he explains.
Luongo was traded to Florida in March, 2014 following an acrimonious falling-out with Canucks management and then-head coach John Tortorella.
Forsythe thinks Luongo’s record will ultimately trump any hard-feelings over how the goalie left.
“He is the best Canucks goalie they’ve ever had. He’s number one and wins number one in shutouts. He got them a game at the Stanley Cup. He was a quarter the reason they had such success in the early 2010 era. And I think that eventually we will see Luongo’s name in the rafters,” he says, adding Florida was the appropriate place for this honour to be given.
“He was the face of that franchise, it is a much deserved honor that he’s retired as a Panther,” Forsythe says. “He was the only reason the Panthers had any success whatsoever for years and years and years. Florida is definitely the right choice at least to start things off.”
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) March 8, 2020
When Luongo’s jersey was retired by the Panthers on Saturday night, he became the first player in team history to get that distinction. It happened in a pregame ceremony before Florida took on the Montreal Canadiens, the team from Luongo’s hometown and a most fitting visitor for the event.
“I think he is somebody that represented all of the positive values of our game,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Perhaps, as importantly, besides excellence on the ice being an important member of whatever community he was living in — this community in particular, which he’s made his permanent home.”
Luongo spoke for about 12 minutes — showing off English, French and Italian skills — and choked up when talking to wife Gina, who he met after initially coming to the Panthers. Their family has made their home in Parkland, Florida for years and Luongo, now an executive with the Panthers and advocate for those affected by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland two years ago, says he hopes they never leave.
“Last but not least, I just want to thank the fans,” Luongo said. “Thank you, everybody. It’s been a great ride. It’s been amazing. It still is amazing when I walk in the community and talk to you guys and see you in the grocery stores. You guys have been behind me from Day One and I’m truly humbled to have been through this journey with you guys and thank you for the support over the years.
“Some times were great. Some times were not so great. But you always stuck behind me and I truly appreciate that.”
With files from the Associated Press