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Luongo starting next chapter with Panthers at Hockeyville Canada

Retired goalie will represent Florida at preseason game against Canadiens

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Roberto Luongo is going back to his roots while he explores a new role with the Florida Panthers.

Luongo, who announced his retirement June 26 after amassing 489 NHL wins as a goalie, third behind Martin Brodeur (691) and Patrick Roy (551), will represent Florida at Kraft Hockeyville Canada in New Brunswick this week. He will attend the Panthers' preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens at K.C. Irving Regional Centre in Bathurst on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN1, TVAS, NHL.TV).

The game will be played at the same arena where Luongo finished his junior career, winning the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship with Acadie-Bathurst after he was traded by Val d'Or in 1998-99.

"I'm sure it means a lot to the community," Luongo said. "The people there are going to be really thrilled to have a game there, especially with the Canadiens. It's fun. And I played there for a few months, and I've met some great people. I know a lot of people, my billets and some friends I made along the way. So they're excited about it. It's going to be fun to go back there."

The 40-year-old wants to stay involved with the Panthers but is still sorting out his next steps. He played for them from 2000-06 and 2014-19 and ranks first in their history in games played by a goalie (572), wins (230) and shutouts (38).

Video: Huberdeau, Barkov reflect on Luongo's career

When the Panthers reported to training camp Thursday, his absence was felt by the players even amid the excitement over Sergei Bobrovsky, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner who signed as an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Asked about Bobrovsky, captain Aleksander Barkov started by saying this: "I mean, we have Luongo for a while. Actually, like, it's weird that he's not there anymore."

Luongo used the same word.

"I mean, it's weird, because I've gone through a lot of emotions over the course of the summer," Luongo said. "The first couple months was really tough, and now, being here, obviously it's hard not being on the ice. But knowing that I'm still part of it somehow kind of makes it easier. So I think it kind of softens the blow a little bit instead of just sitting at home and not doing anything."

Luongo has been watching practices with management. The plan is for him to learn all aspects of hockey operations this season, from the players across the League to the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

"I want to take in as much as I can and feel my way through and then eventually decide what I want to do," Luongo said.

The Panthers have several other NHL alumni on staff, including Chris Pronger, senior vice president of hockey operations and senior advisor to the general manager; Bryan McCabe, director of player personnel; and Derek MacKenzie, assistant coach. Luongo's brother, Leo, is the goaltending coach for Springfield, Florida's American Hockey League affiliate.

"We're kind of just feeling each other out and seeing what's going to be best suited for [Luongo] and what is best for everybody," general manager Dale Tallon said. "How could you not have Luongo, Pronger and McCabe in your front office? How could you not want them in this room talking hockey? I think that makes me a smarter guy. I learn from them, and I think it's a great advantage for us to have them.

"He's going to voice his opinion. It's exciting. I look forward to working with him."

Luongo could help coach Joel Quenneville, who was hired April 8 and is learning his personnel.

"He's got a great view of the game and got a great assessment to what he sees," Quenneville said. "He's got some familiarity with some of these guys as well and talking to him a little bit on that can help us."

What about Bob?

"I like to watch him on the ice, the way he works and his style and how quick he is," Luongo said of Bobrovsky. "So I think I'm just as excited as everybody else down here just to have him here and see what he can bring and how he can help the team win games.

"I mean, obviously if he's got any questions or whatever, I'd be more than happy to help. But he's been there. He knows what to do. I don't want to mess with whatever he does. We have a goalie coach."

Luongo and Bobrovsky have chatted but not much about hockey, at least not yet.

"It's great to have the legendary goalie in our organization and in the team, because he's been through the life what I'm in and it's interesting to speak with him," Bobrovsky said. "Just that he's around is so good, I think. It's so good for the organization. I'm looking forward to spending some time with him to speak about the goalie things and life outside the hockey, inside the hockey, all that stuff."

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