After being acquired via trade from the New York Islanders back in June of 2000, Roberto Luongo started his journey as the number one goaltender in South Florida. Since then, he’s been a staple of hockey in Sunrise, Florida with 572 career games with the Florida Panthers and the only Panther player to have his number sent to the rafters of the BB&T Center. He currently works with the front office staff as an advisor to the general manager. And after the performance team Canada had at the World Juniors last year with him as the general manager, he could be next in line for a future role somewhere else.
After playing only one season with the Islanders, Luongo would come in and finish his first season as a Panther with a 2.44 goals-against average (GAA) and a .920 save percentage (SV%). The Panthers missed the playoffs that season, but it gave him the jumpstart he needed to get his career going in his prime as he finished ninth in Calder Trophy voting. In the 2003-04 season, he would hit his greatest numbers as a Panther, with 25 wins, a .931 SV% and a 2.43 GAA through 72 starts. Nearly playing an entire season seems a tad bit overkill, but Lu managed to make it happen.
After spending six seasons with Florida, he was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks for Todd Bertuzzi in arguably one of the worst trades in Panther history. During his time there, he flourished by making multiple playoff appearances, being named a captain for the team, being selected to the All-Star Game in multiple years, and appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.
Seven seasons later, he would be dealt back to Florida along with forward Steven Anthony in exchange for goaltender Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Mathias after losing the starting job back in the 2012 NHL Playoffs. It was then his career would resurge to new heights as he became the new starter. In the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, he finished with a 2.35 GAA and SV%’s over .920. Additionally, he represented Florida in back-to-back All-Star Games in those two seasons. In 2016, he revisited the postseason for the first time as a Panther but ultimately fell to the hands of the Islanders in six games.
The following two seasons, not only did he struggle, but he was plagued with injuries that ultimately forced him to hang up his skates and call it a career. However, he would become third all-time in wins on February 26, 2019, after a 4-3 overtime win. He finished his career with a total of 489 wins and is currently fourth all-time.
As mentioned before, Luongo has hit milestones in his career and broke league records as a Panther that should make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer upon in his first year of eligibility. Additionally, he leads the Panthers all-time in wins with 230, shutouts with 38, and games played with 572. Furthermore, he is one of three goaltenders in NHL history to play in 1000 games. What he has done on the ice has been phenomenal, but he’s also done a lot off the ice that captured the South Florida Community’s heart. After the Marjory Stoneman Douglass shooting, he gave a heartfelt speech at the first Panther game since the tragic massacre on February 22, 2018. His words took the hearts of everyone across the league.
“Just to the teachers of the school, you guys are heroes protecting your children. Some of them didn’t make it, trying to protect children. That is truly what a hero is. Those people need to be put on a pedestal for the rest of their lives.“Roberto Luongo on the teachers protecting their students during the Marjory Stoneman Douglass Shooting on February 14, 2018.
Additionally, he attends multiple community events throughout South Florida from Broward to Palm Beach County sponsored by the Panthers. Even though his time in the NHL is long done, he still does what he can to help the team and the league. While he may have hit his career highs with Vancouver, he ultimately considers where he got started in 2000 home, and the Panthers welcomed him home with open arms and continue to treat him like family.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!