After being named the first goalie to captain an NHL team in 61 seasons, Roberto Luongo
of the Vancouver Canucks had one thought in mind.
“(Luongo) asked me if he needed to work on his faceoff skills for times of special events at the arena,’’ said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.
“We might be a little outside of box here (naming Luongo captain), but there’s only two things that, as captain, Roberto can’t do and that’s wear the ‘C’ on his jersey or take faceoffs,’’ Vigneault said.
Luongo, who is in the third year of a four-year deal with the Canucks, was named captain Tuesday along with alternates Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund and Ryan Kesler
. For Vigneault, naming the three-time NHL All-Star team captain was an obvious choice.
“One characteristic of being a successful captain was being able to make your peers better, and Roberto is exceptional at that,’’ Canucks GM Mike Gillis said. “He’s a tremendously hard worker, diligent and cares very deeply about how he performs and how the team performs. On top of that, he wanted this title (captain).
“Over the summer, I talked to him about leadership and how this should become his team and, notwithstanding the position he plays, how he should be the person that leads this team. Alain came up with this idea on his own and the people we mentioned it to were thrilled with it. We’re very pleased with the decision.’’
By League rules, Luongo cannot wear the 'C,' but he can be named captain. Mitchell will deal with officials on a nightly basis and as the longest-serving Canuck. Ohlund, who is entering his 11th NHL season, will deal with any ceremonial aspects of the position such as faceoffs.
The 29-year-old Luongo, however, will be the voice of reason in the dressing room and, perhaps, during critical moments of each game.
Last season, Luongo finished 35-29-9 with a 2.38 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and six shutouts in 73 appearances. The Canucks’ captaincy had been vacated by Markus Naslund, who signed with the New York Rangers in the offseason. Naslund had been the club’s captain since 2000.
“I went back East for about 10 days and came back and gave this captaincy issue a lot of thought,’’ Vigneault said. “I had a meeting with (Gillis) on the first day I came back and we discussed the captaincy and I talked about the different characteristics that all captains have. As I was going through my list, I noticed Mike had opened to a page in his book of notes and thoughts that had all the reasons I had written down as well.
“I then told him that, while I felt we had quite a few players on our team that possessed these characteristics to a certain degree, there was just one individual who had all these characteristics to a very high degree and that was Roberto. That’s why I felt we should name him captain.’’
“It began when we hired Ryan Walter (as assistant coach June 17),’’ Gillis said. “He brought in all these books on leadership and as I looked through them, I learned that it didn’t really matter if you worked for General Motors or were the general manager of the New York Yankees or the San Francisco 49ers of years’ past. Great leaders exhibited consistent traits.’’
Luongo is not the first goalie to be named captain of his team. Hall of Fame goalie Charlie Gardiner was captain of the Chicago Blackhawks when they won the Stanley Cup in 1934. Prior to Luongo, the last NHL goaltender who served as team captain was Bill Durnan of the Montreal Canadiens during the 1947-48 season.
“We’re happy Roberto’s the leader of this of this organization and the leader of this group of players,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s the right choice.’’Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.