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Luongo to have number retired by Panthers

Goalie will be first player in their history to receive honor

by Alain Poupart / Independent Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Roberto Luongo will be the first player to have his number retired by the Florida Panthers when they raise his No. 1 at BB&T Center on March 7 before a game against the Montreal Canadiens.

The 40-year-old retired June 26 after 19 seasons in the NHL. He is second in NHL history in games played by a goalie (1,044), third in wins (489) and ninth in shutouts (77). He is one of three goalies to have played 1,000 NHL games.

"It's a great honor," Luongo said Monday. "When I found out yesterday, I didn't realize I was going to be the first player. That makes it extra special.

"This is my home now. We're going to spend our lives here, our kids are going to grow up here. It's nice to be recognized in a place that you call home now."

Video: Panthers to retire Roberto Luongo's No. 1 in March

A native of Montreal, Luongo said he was happy he will be honored prior to a game against the Canadiens.

"It's super exciting because I know everybody back home will be watching," Luongo said. "That makes it extra special, to know a lot of people from my hometown will be watching who can't make it down to Florida. It's a team I grew up watching. It's going to be a fun night. Hopefully there will be a lot of people in the building to enjoy that special moment with me."

The Panthers originally acquired Luongo in a trade with the New York Islanders on June 24, 2000. He was traded to the Vancouver Canucks on June 23, 2006, and traded back to Florida by Vancouver on March 4, 2014.

Luongo played 11 seasons with the Panthers and holds their records for games played by a goalie (572), wins (230), shutouts (38), saves (16,068), assists/points (13), single-season games played by a goalie (75, 2005-06), single-season wins (35, 2005-06, 2015-16), single-season saves (2,303) and single-season shutouts (tied for seventh, 2003-04). He represented Florida at the NHL All-Star Game three times (2004, 2015, 2016).

"A true professional, competitor and gentleman, Roberto set the standard for players in this organization," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. "There was never a question in any of our minds that Roberto would be the first Panthers player to have his number retired by the franchise. One of the game's most iconic goaltenders, he gave his heart and soul to the Panthers and the South Florida community and carried himself with dignity, modesty and humor. Roberto is most deserving of this honor and we are thrilled for him and his family."

The Panthers have retired two numbers: No. 93 in 2010 to honor longtime team executive Bill Torrey, recognizing the year they entered the NHL (1993); and No. 37 in 2018 for original owner Wayne Huizenga, who was born in 1937.

Video: Darren Pang joins the show to discuss Roberto Luongo

Luongo said he had every intention at the conclusion of last season to continue playing, but he gradually became convinced the time was right to retire. He was 18-16-5 with a 3.12 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage in 43 games (40 starts).

"As the offseason started and the weeks started to go by and I got closer to beginning my conditioning program, my body was just telling that it was not ready to go at it," Luongo said. "The final kicker for me was for the first time in my life when I was thinking about going back on the ice in August, for the first time I was not looking forward to that."

Luongo said August typically was his most demanding month, between off-ice conditioning and on-ice training, and he's been finding himself giving his wife a play-by-play of what he normally would be doing at this time of year.

He said no decisions have been made regarding his future plans, but he's had discussions with Tallon about a possible role with the Panthers.

"Hockey is my life, right?" Luongo said. "We've had a few conversations, but nothing is set in stone. I definitely want to stay involved with the game. When and where, we're not sure yet. Down the line somewhere, you'll see me around sometime."

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