Luongo shines as a forward at HHOF Legends Classic
TORONTO– When Roberto Luongo left the ice at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday, a reporter asked him a serious question: What was the most memorable moment of his hockey career?
Luongo gave a not-so-serious answer on a not-so-serious afternoon.
“We scored two goals today,” Luongo said.
Luongo will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday for keeping the puck out of the net, but the goaltender-turned-center put the puck in the net twice in Team Lindros’ 10-6 win against the ‘team Sundin at the Hyundai Hockey Hall. of Fame Legends Classic.
“It was fun,” Luongo said. “I was waiting for this game the whole time. When they asked me to play, I said I didn’t want to be in net, but they gave me a chance.”
It is fun. Growing up in Montreal, Luongo didn’t start playing hockey until he was 8 years old. And when he started, he played forward despite his desire to be a goalkeeper because his parents wanted him to exercise and felt goalkeepers didn’t move enough.
Then, when he was 11 or 12, Luongo was cut by a travel team.
Only when his home team’s goalie fell ill did his mother relent and let him into the net. He ended up getting a shutout and never got back in front.
The rest is history.
Luongo ranked second among NHL goaltenders in games played (1,044), fourth in wins (489) and ninth in shutouts (77). Among those with at least 250 games played, he is tied for sixth in save percentage (.919) with Andrey Vasilevsky of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Luongo received his Hockey Hall of Fame blazer in a pregame ceremony on Sunday. He then dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff, flanked by two of his former Vancouver Canucks teammates and classmates in the class of 2022: Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
The first time Luongo faced off, he faced Henrik. Wearing the same No. 1 he wore as a goalie, he won the toss cleanly, returning the puck to a teammate.
(OK, Henrik didn’t even swing the stick, but so what?)
“I think he was a center growing up,” Henrik said with a smile. “It’s big. It’s strong. Good timing. Awesome.”
The game between former women’s hockey and NHL stars featured two 20-minute halves and a 12-man shootout.
After missing a couple of chances, Luongo fired the puck into the roof of the net in the second half, causing the water bottle to pop. He seemed to show great patience in waiting for an open net.
“I wanted to shoot, and then I didn’t see anything, and I just panicked,” Luongo said. “Then I hung on to it and all of a sudden I had an empty net so I tried to throw it high.”
Luongo celebrated by doing the Griddy dance at the suggestion of his 11-year-old son, Gianni.
“It wasn’t pretty, but I did my best,” Luongo said.
Luongo’s second goal was beautiful, in all seriousness. In the shootout, he used what he called his only move, deking and throwing a backhand into the net.
“He started off slow, but he came on as the game went on,” Daniel said. “That shootout goal was pretty impressive.”
Goalie Cory Schneider laughed.
“I thought the breakout goal was really, really good,” said Schneider, who played with Luongo with the Canucks and reunited with him on Team Lindros. “It was a good ending.”
Schneider played in the American Hockey League on Saturday, making 30 saves for Bridgeport in a 2-1 overtime loss at Hershey. Still, he made the trip to play with Luongo and the Sedins one more time. Three other former Canucks also played: center Brendan Morrison and defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis.
“The best part was playing with guys I played with for a bunch of years,” Luongo said.
Maybe Luongo proved that goaltenders can do what forwards do.
“We were talking about it after the first half and I asked him if that gave him a better appreciation of how tough it is out there,” Schneider said. “And then when he came out of the water bottle and scored in the penalty shootout, I think we both agreed that it’s a lot easier than they make it look. I think he has a future there. He did some good moves.”
Then again, maybe not.
Had Luongo been a forward instead of a goaltender, could he have challenged Daniel Canucks’ goal record (393)?
“Not a chance,” Daniel said, grinning.
Well, Luongo could have at least made it to the NHL as a forward, right?
“Not a chance,” Henrik said, smiling.
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