Close to 3,000 miles separate BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida and Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia. Over the last fifteen seasons, both arenas have been second homes for G Roberto Luongo. Becoming a fan favorite and an All-Star in both, Luongo has made memories in both places.
Two different phases of his life defined his first stint in Florida and his time with the Vancouver Canucks. During his first go around in Florida, Luongo was a young up-and-coming goaltender, establishing himself in the NHL. By the end of his first run in South Florida, Luongo was a bona fide All-Star. During his Vancouver years, Luongo became one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders and helped lead the Canucks to two consecutive President’s Trophies (2010-11, 2011-12).
Vancouver holds a special place in Luongo’s heart. It was in Rogers Arena where Luongo won an Olympic Gold Medal with Team Canada in 2010 and was a part of the Vancouver Canucks Western Conference Championship team in 2011. For eight years Luongo resided in Vancouver and now for the first time since Jan. 29, 2014 Luongo will start in a game there, this time for a different NHL team.
Playing in 448 games for Vancouver between 2006 and 2014, the 35-year old netminder looks forward to being back in his old stomping grounds, although he is unsure about the type of welcome he will have.
“It’s crossed my mind once or twice”, Luongo told South Florida media. “To be honest, I’m just looking forward to being (in Vancouver) for four days and obviously ending it with a game in front of the crowd there. I’m not quite sure what type of reception I’m going to get, but I’ll definitely enjoy the game that’s for sure.”
Luongo may have spent a few days this past summer in Vancouver with Team Canada, receiving his Gold Medal Ring for his victory at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but staying in a hotel is a bit of a change for the former Vancouver resident as he is “just visiting” this time.
It’s business as usual for the veteran goaltender. Although he looks forward to the game against his old team, Luongo’s mindset is still focused in on earning two points and furthering Florida’s push to the postseason.
“They are all big games,” said Luongo. “At this juncture of the season we are fighting for every point to try and get in (to the playoffs).”
Although the distance between Vancouver and South Florida can be measured, the impact Luongo has made for both clubs can not. A fixture in the franchise history of both the Canucks and Panthers, the man affectionately referred to as “Lu” has brought both fanbases to their feet and has been a difference maker on and off the ice for both teams. The game on Jan. 8, will be a special night not only for fans in Vancouver and fans in South Florida, but for the man behind the mask as well.