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Luongo honored to have number retired by Panthers

Montreal native's No. 1 will be raised to rafters at BB&T Center before game against Canadiens

by Alain Poupart / Independent Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Roberto Luongo is No. 1 for the Florida Panthers in more ways than one.

When Luongo's No. 1 is retired by the Panthers before their game against the Montreal Canadiens at BB&T Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, SN360, TVAS, FS-F, NHL.TV), he will become the first Florida player to receive that honor.

Luongo, who retired June 26 after 20 NHL seasons, including 11 with the Panthers, is Florida's leader in games played by a goalie (572), wins (230), shutouts (38) and saves (16,086). He represented the Panthers at the NHL All-Star Game three times (2004, 2015, 2016).

He holds Panthers single-season records for wins (35, 2005-06, 2015-16), saves (2,303) and shutouts (seven, 2003-04).

"It's great," said Luongo, who works as a special adviser to Panthers general manager Dale Tallon. "First player [to have his number retired] makes it extra special for me. I'm really honored that they made me the first player. Grateful for that. Florida is a special place for me. It's my home. It's where I'm going to be living for the rest of my life. To always have that here is going to be something that I cherish."

Luongo played his first NHL season with the New York Islanders in 1999-2000 after they selected him No. 4 in the 1997 NHL Draft, then was traded to the Panthers with forward Olli Jokinen for forwards Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha on June 24, 2000.

Luongo played five seasons for Florida before he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks with defenseman Lukas Krajicek and Florida's sixth-round pick in the 2006 NHL Draft for forward Todd Bertuzzi, defenseman Bryan Allen and goalie Alex Auld on June 23, 2006. He was traded back to Florida with forward Steven Anthony for goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias on March 4, 2014.

Luongo was 489-392-91 with 33 ties in 1,044 NHL games. He is second in NHL history in games played by a goalie, third in wins (489), ninth in shutouts (77), and is one of three goalies in NHL history to have played 1,000 games (Martin Brodeur 1,266; Patrick Roy 1,029).

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

The Montreal native said the significance of the honor started to sink in when he attended the ceremony to retire to the numbers of former Canucks teammates Henrik Sedin (No. 33) and Daniel Sedin (No. 22) on Feb. 12.

"It's not something you think about when you're a kid," said Luongo, who turns 41 on April 4. "You just want to play in the NHL and try to win a Stanley Cup. Almost feel like it really hasn't hit me yet. I think when I was at the Sedin retirement a few weeks ago, it kind of got real for me a little bit and I started having some butterflies. I think until I see that number up there it's not going to feel real."

The Panthers have retired two numbers: No. 93 in 2010 in honor of longtime executive Bill Torrey to recognize their first season in the NHL (1993-94), and No. 37 in 2018 in honor of original owner Wayne Huizenga, who was born in 1937.

"A true professional, competitor and gentleman, Roberto set the standard for players in this organization," 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."

As part of the celebration, the Panthers will warm up in No. 1 Luongo jerseys and will wear special Luongo helmet decals for the game.

Luongo was hired as special adviser on Nov. 13, less than four months after announcing his retirement on June 26.

"I love it so far," Luongo said. "Everything about it. It's like a big puzzle that you're trying to put together and make the best decisions possible for the hockey club. Obviously I'm learning right now, learning the ropes. Being in the day-to-day process is something that I really enjoy doing, and [I'm] looking forward to obviously having a bigger role in the years to come."

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