SUNRISE, Fla. - For the first time in almost 20 years, Roberto Luongo is a rookie.
Only a few months after retiring from the NHL in June, the 40-year-old goaltender is overflowing with excitement as he prepares to embark on the next stage of his illustrious career as a special advisor to Florida Panthers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Dale Tallon.
One of only three goaltenders in NHL history to have suited up in 1,000 NHL games, Luongo certainly brings a wealth of experience to his new position. During his 19 seasons - including 11 with Florida -- he posted the third-most wins (77) and ninth-most shutouts (77) in NHL history.
Luongo and Tallon both took questions from reporters about the move during a press conference prior to Thursday night's game against the Winnipeg Jets at BB&T Center.
"I did a lot of thinking this summer," Luongo said. "For me, hockey is my life, my passion. Obviously, performance-wise, I wasn't where I wanted to be anymore, but at the same time I still wanted to be involved I the game. It's the perfect opportunity for me to stay involved, learn from Dale and gather as much information as I can in this first year and then move on from there."
Acquired by Tallon in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks in 2014, Luongo backstopped the Panthers to an Atlantic Division title and a franchise-best 103-point regular season in 2015-16. Over his two stints in Florida, he set franchise numerous franchise records, including the most wins (230), shutouts (38), total saves (16,068) and games played by a goaltender (572).
Tallon said he was blown away by Luongo's knowledge and character during his playing career.
"Great goalies see the ice. They see what's happening before it happens," Tallon said. "For me, it's important for our culture to bring in the most qualified people. If you surround yourself with educated, smart people you become a better organization. We were very fortunate to have this happen."
In his new role with the Panthers, Luongo joins a hockey operations staff that already boasts some of the top NHL stars of the last two decades, including Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations & Senior Advisor to the GM Chris Pronger and Director of Player Personnel Bryan McCabe.
Those three players alone have more than 3,000 combined games of NHL experience.
"They're working with me, not under me," Tallon said. "I think that we all work together. We're co-workers. I trust them. I trust and value their opinions. They're willing to express their opinions. I like different people. I like people with character, and characters with character. I like to have fun. Lou's brilliant. He's a funny man as well, and I like to laugh. Caber, Prongs and all of us together, we want to have fun too. It's a game. We're going to give it our all to make sure we have the best players on the ice permanently and that we win all the time."
In the early goings of his new gig, Luongo said he's being doing a little bit of everything. From attending practices to studying the CBA like a playbook, he's dipping his toes into every area of the hockey operations department.
Overall, Luongo said he's looking forward to continuing to learn the ropes this season.
"So far, I like all of it," he said. "It's tough to say. It's really my first year. I'm trying to learn as much as I can and dive into every single situation, whether that's scouting or learning the CBA, being in the coaches office for meetings or talking about lineups and potential pick-ups. All of it's exciting to me. Where I'm going to be leaning in the future, I don't know yet. I'm just excited to learn it all. I think the more knowledge you have, the better it is no matter what you do."
Tallon said he's looking forward to working with Luongo "for many years to come."
"We're in this together to make this better," he said. "We want to win championships and we want to have fun doing it. I trust his opinion. It's valued. It's coming from a great wealth of experience over the years. He was a heck of a player throughout his illustrious career. It's all good. I love it. I'm learning from his as well. That's what it's all about."