A Florida Panthers Icon: Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo faces the puck during a game.
SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers defends the net against the Calgary Flames at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. The Flames defeated the Panthers 4-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

June 26, 2019, was the date. In a move that many were whispering was bound to happen, the National Hockey League’s third most winning goaltender announced he would be retiring from his beloved game of hockey. The Canadian born and bred, Roberto Luongo, announced that after his 19th season in the NHL, he is finally stepping away from hockey.

After a terrific QMJHL tenure, Luongo was destined for NHL stardom. He was drafted 4th overall by the New York Islanders in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He was traded to the Florida Panthers after recording only 24 games played with the Islanders. In South Florida, of all places for this Canadian, is where he would truly begin the start to his Hall of Fame Career.

Florida Panthers to Retire the Number of Roberto Luongo

As of 2019, there are only two numbers hanging from the rafters of BB&T Center. Neither are from actual players, though. Number 93 is the first, retired to commemorate Bill Torrey and the year the team came into existence. The other is number 37, commemorating the team’s first owner, Wayne Huizenga. While both men were great to the Florida franchise, neither suited up for the team. This means that, on March 7, 2020, Luongo will become the first player to have his number retired.

Luongo successfully navigated the NHL for 19 seasons, a feat not attained by many. He spent 11 of those 19 with the Panthers. During that time he set five different franchise records. Luongo is the franchise leader in games played (572), wins (230), shut-outs (38), saves made (16,086), and shots faced (17,501). He also had the honor of representing the Florida Panthers at three different All-Star Games in 2004, 2015, and 2016.

Outside of the Sunshine State

Luongo also had a fantastic career in Canada, for both the Vancouver Canucks and Team Canada. While representing his country in multiple events, Luongo was successfully able to acquire two gold medals. These came in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. He earned both a gold and silver World Cup medal and reeled in two more gold medals at the World Championship. Yet his reign as one of the top Canadian goaltenders does not stop there.

While playing for the Vancouver Canucks, Luongo, with help from Cory Schneider, won the William Jennings Trophy in 2011. He led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final this year. He also served as Vancouver’s captain in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. This was impressive, with the last goaltender to be named their respective team’s captain being six-time Vezina Trophy winner and Hall of Famer Bill Durnan. Durnan served as captain during the 1940s, showing the true feat Luongo accomplished.

End of a Storied Career

Not only will Luongo go down as one of the greatest Florida Panthers players to have played the game, he will also be known as one of the best goaltenders to ever play. Luongo ended his career with plenty of rankings among the NHL’s best. He is one of only three goaltenders to have played over 1,000 games, ranks ninth all-time in shutouts (77), second in games played all-time (1,044), and is the third most winning goaltender (489).

Roberto Luongo was more than just a phenomenal goaltender. He knew that at the end of the day there is a bigger picture of this world, and it is way more than hockey.  He was never one to shy away from a family trip to the grocery store on a Sunday evening, or indulge in random conversations with fellow parents at an elementary school event. Luongo and his family have been recognizable faces in the South Florida community, and plan to be for years to come. Many fans look forward to Luongo’s next step in life. He is the perfect cornerstone to help create some greatly needed culture within the Panthers organization.

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