Roberto Luongo knows there’ll be a lot of emotions when he takes the ice in Vancouver Thursday night.
After all, Rogers Arena has long held a special place for the former Canucks goalie.
It’s the rink where he backstopped Team Canada to Olympic gold in 2010 and the spot where he and his Canucks teammates experienced heartbreak in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in 2011.
Those are among the moments Luongo will be thinking of when he’s honoured Thursday in a ceremony ahead of a tilt between Vancouver and the Florida Panthers. His former teammates, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, will also be recognized after all three were inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame last month.
“Those playoff runs, those were the best moments of my career,” Luongo told reporters. “So I want to be able to kind of relive them a little bit here, the next little while and take it in and thank the fans for everything. I think it’s a nice way to cap it all off.”
It won’t be the last time the 43-year-old Montreal native is recognized before a Vancouver crowd. The Canucks announced Wednesday that he’ll join the team’s Ring of Honour next season.
“It’s a great honour. I’m really excited about it,” said Luongo, who now serves as Florida’s director of goaltending and as a special adviser to general manager Bill Zito. “It’s nice to see that the work that I put in here for eight years is going to get recognized and I’m very grateful to be able to go up there with those guys.”
Luongo spent eight seasons (2006-2014) donning a Canucks jersey, setting multiple franchise records and helping lead the team to a Stanley Cup appearance in 2010-11.
The Montreal native is the franchise leader in wins (252) and shutouts (38). He also tops the list in save percentage (. 919) and goals-against average (2.36) among those with at least 100 games played. Luongo also led Canada to two Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014.
“We are proud to welcome Roberto to the prestigious list of Canucks Ring of Honour inductees,” team president Jim Rutherford said in a statement. “Roberto experienced many of his career highlights as a Vancouver Canuck and is deservingly viewed as one of the best goaltenders our game has ever seen thanks to those moments.
“He was a fierce competitor and a tremendous leader for this team, and we are honoured to be able to acknowledge his contributions to this organization and city.”
The 43-year-old played 20 years in the NHL before announcing his retirement after the 2018-2019 season.
During his time in Vancouver, the team made the playoffs five seasons in a row. It was a special group that made that run, the netminder said.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “And sometimes when you’re in it, you don’t kind of realize it. But then you move on, you play for other teams, teams change. And now that you look back, it’s like you realize how special the group was and it was a unique group, right?
“We had different types of personalities in the locker room. And I think that’s what made us so good.”
Luongo closed out his career with the Panthers, spending five seasons in Florida’s crease before announcing his retirement after the 2019-19 season.
That success has prompted many in Vancouver to muse about whether his jersey should be retired — a decision Luongo said is out of his control.
“That’s not up to me to decide, right? But either way, it’s a tremendous honour. And I’m very grateful to be honoured anyway,” he said. “So I was happy when I got the call yesterday, and I’m looking forward to next season.”
—Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press