Panthers retire Luongo's No. 1 in emotional ceremony
Family, former teammates paid tribute to goalie who played 20 NHL seasonsby Alain Poupart / NHL.com Independent Correspondent
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Special night, special career.
That's how Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville described the jersey retirement ceremony for longtime goalie Roberto Luongo on Saturday.
Now a special adviser to Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, Luongo was honored by current and former teammates before Florida's game against the Montreal Canadiens. He became the first player to have his number retired by the Panthers, who presented Luongo and his wife, Gina, with watches and a customized blackjack table.
"[Roberto] has meant a lot here to everybody in Florida," Quenneville said. "He did a wonderful job throughout his career. He's great for the game. He's great for the League, great for the goaltending union as well. He's very deserving."
Luongo, who retired June 26 after playing 20 seasons in the NHL, is second in NHL history in games played by a goalie (1,044), third in wins (489) and ninth in shutouts (77). He played 11 seasons with the Panthers in two stints.
"He is somebody who represented all of the positive values of our game," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who was in attendance for the ceremony. "Perhaps as importantly besides excellence on the ice, being an important member of whatever community he was living in, in this community in particular, which he's made his permanent home, he married somebody from this area, his kids were born here and are being raised here.
"And I was here the night after the (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School) shootings just up the road and he was a very forceful presence at an important time and I don't think anybody in this community will ever forget that."
The ceremony featured highlights of Luongo's career going all the way back to his pee-wee days and video tributes from former teammates Alexandre Burrows, Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad, Joe Thornton, and Martin Brodeur, and longtime goalie coach Francois Allaire. Luongo's billet family, brother, parents and grandparents were in the video, as was Fred Guttenberg, an activist against gun violence whose daughter was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shootings.
Panthers players watched the ceremony from the bench wearing Luongo jerseys.
"You guys are a great group of guys and I'm really proud of you and I think that we have to believe in ourselves right now and enjoy the moment," Luongo said to the team.
During his 20-minute speech, Luongo got emotional as he thanked his wife for years of support. They were joined by their children Gianni and Gabriella, and his parents, Pasqualina and Antonio. Luongo also mentioned his grandmother wearing her apron and taking brief breaks from making lasagnas to play hockey with him when he first fell in love with the game.
"It's been a great ride," Luongo said. "It's been amazing. It's still amazing."