Canucks star Roberto Luongo says goodbye again; hopes he's not saying hello next fall
Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Roberto Luongo speaks to the media.
Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER — This time, Roberto Luongo really does hope it's goodbye. Of course, he said so long last year at this time and we all know what happened.
But on Thursday, when he joined the rest of the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena for a final team get-together, Luongo made it clear that he does think it's time to move on. Actually, way past time.
"I have made that statement before," Luongo said as he leaned against a wall outside the team dressing room. "I feel like I am in a stage of my life where I want to play. Whether that's here or somewhere else remains to be seen. But what has happened over the course of the last two years suggests that maybe it's not my place to be the starter here anymore. That being said, things change so, who knows."
If Luongo learned anything this past season, it's to expect the unexpected. He didn't think he'd start the season in Vancouver, let alone end it here.
"Who knows what is going to happen," he said. "I think we are all aware of what the situation is. . .my main goal is to be a starter. I want to play and feel like I still have a lot to give. At the end of the day that's what I want, so we'll see what happens."
Asked if he could envision returning to the same situation next season and again play second fiddle to Cory Schneider, Luongo said: "Not really. Like I just said before, I want to play and that's the bottom line.
"The way I came into camp, the way I felt about my game and stuff I was really excited about that. For once I had a good start to the season and I was happy and with all the stuff going around I kind of lost a little momentum in the middle. But at the end of the day I feel like I have many good years left in me and I can contribute somewhere and I want to be part of something like that."
Luongo made his comments about an hour before Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis addressed the media. It sounds like Gillis plans to grant Luongo his wish. Asked about the likelihood of Luongo being here next season, Gillis said simply: "I think it is unlikely."
It doesn't figure to be easy, as Gillis discovered this past season. Luongo is 34 and has nine years and just over $40 million left on the 12-year deal he signed with the Canucks.
Luongo thinks everyone -- he and Schneider, the coaches, the rest of the team -- handled a difficult situation as best they could.
"They are in a tough spot," Luongo said of the coaches. "It's tough to manage something like that. There was really no good answer. We both want to play, that's the bottom line and there's only one net so I think me and Schneids handled it well on a personal level. We didn't let that get in the way of a friendship and we were supportive of one another even though we both wanted to play and we made it work. We did the best that we could with what we had."
As Luongo spoke, Schneider was at the other end of the hall giving his own interview. He disclosed that it was a groin injury that kept him out of Games 1 and 2 of the playoff series with the San Jose Sharks.
He suffered the injury in the third period of Vancouver's 3-1 home-ice win over the Chicago Blackhawks on April 22 while stretching to make a save.
"Felt something I hadn't felt before in my career," Schneider said. "It wasn't anything major. I was able to finish the game, but there was some discomfort and I could tell that something wasn't right. But with 10 minutes left in a game against Chicago, I didn't want to come out of the net."
Like Luongo, Schneider thinks they both made the best of what was certainly not an ideal situation.
"The game is full of things you don't expect," Schneider said. "I didn't expect to get injured, I didn't expect to do this or that, so the fact Roberto was here didn't impact a whole lot. I just tried to do the same thing I always do. He was tremendous throughout the whole process and really believed in me and stood up for me."
That may be one of the more remarkable things about what was a decidedly unremarkable Canuck season. Throughout it all, Luongo and Schneider stuck together and supported one another. Schneider was clearly devastated after a 5-2 loss in Game 3 in San Jose and Luongo was there whispering words of encouragement before Schneider faced the media.
"I think we made it work the best that we could," Luongo said.
If he really is leaving, Luongo seems to be departing Vancouver with the fans solidly behind him. They clearly appreciated not only the solid goaltending he provided most nights over his seven seasons here, but the class and humour he displayed in what was an uncomfortable situation.
For them, Luongo offered a thank you and an apology before leaving the rink Thursday.
"First of all I'd like to thank them for everything and just apologize that I wasn't able to bring them a Stanley Cup two years ago," he said.
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