Luongo dreams of another playoff run: ‘I just want to get a taste of that’

Former Vancouver Canuck Roberto Luongo is in his 19th NHL season

Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo (1) makes a save against the Toronto Maple Leafs cduring first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday Dec. 20, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo (1) makes a save against the Toronto Maple Leafs cduring first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday Dec. 20, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

His 39-year-old right knee wrapped in gauze for support, Roberto Luongo insists it’s all still worth it.

The aches and pains, the amount of preparation needed just to step on the ice, and the injuries that take a lot longer to heal don’t come close to rivalling the one desire burning inside the Florida Panthers’ veteran goalie.

“I just want to be in the playoffs, man,” said Luongo, grey hair dotting his beard. “I just want to get a taste of that. That’s why I play.”

In his 19th NHL season, Luongo sits six wins shy of tying Ed Belfour for third all-time at 484, is 12 appearances away from equalling Patrick Roy for second in games played at 1,029 and needs four shutouts to pull even with Dominik Hasek and two others for sixth with 81.

But those numbers and his slam-dunk spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame don’t matter to the Montreal native.

READ MORE: Former Canuck Roberto Luongo addresses Florida shooting victims

He wants another shot at the Stanley Cup, a trophy Luongo came so close to touching with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.

“The rest of that stuff will come on its own,” he said inside the visitors locker room at Scotiabank Arena earlier this week. ”At the end of my career you can look back on those numbers and appreciate them, but for now I just want to keep doing a good job.”

He’s done his part for the Panthers this season, but it’s unlikely there will be spring hockey in south Florida.

Luongo, who was left hung out to dry by teammates in Thursday’s 6-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, is 7-6-1 with one shutout, a .900 save percentage and a 3.14 goals-against average in 2018-19 after missing the first month of the season with a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered in Florida’s opener.

The Panthers struggled without Luongo and, despite back-to-back wins before the blowout in Toronto, sit nine points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Still, he continues to push his body.

“It’s tough. I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy,” Luongo said. ”There’s a lot of stuff you have to deal with. When you get up there (in age), recovery is not as fast and you have to put a lot of work in.

“Right now I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep going.”

Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said Luongo “is his own boss” when it comes to the goalie’s workload.

“It’s crucial for us he stays healthy,” said Boughner, whose team missed the playoffs by a point last season. ”He’s our most important player.”

Luongo signed a 12-year, US$64-million contract with Vancouver that kicked in ahead of the 2010-11 campaign — a front-loaded deal that carries an annual average value of $5.333 million.

After earning $10 million the first season, he made $6.716 million for seven consecutive years. But Luongo’s salary in real dollars dropped by more than half to $3.382 million this season and falls to $1.618 million in 2019-20.

That number dips even further to $1 million in both 2020-21 and 2021-22, should he continue playing well into his 40s.

Luongo insists when he inked his extension with the Canucks, who traded him back to Florida in 2014 after originally acquiring him from the Panthers in 2006, his intention was to play as long as he could, regardless of the money.

“I never said I was going to retire at a certain age,” Luongo explained. ”I just wanted to keep playing as long as I enjoyed it (and) was able to play at a high level and be as healthy as I can be.

“Right now other than the injuries a little bit, I still feel that I can play at a high level.”

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The platanthera dilatata is the fragrant white bog orchid whose perfume on a hot August day is one of the unforgettable delights of a summer hike in Strathcona Park. Photo supplied
Strathcona Wilderness Institute AGM upcoming

The Strathcona Wilderness Institute (SWI) will hold its 2021 annual general meeting… Continue reading

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Cumberland council is backing the business association again. File photo
Cumberland backs homeless veteran count

Briefs: Council continues support for business association

Courtenay Nissan’s Matthew Bourassa, Geoff Piper and Sean LaFleur join YANA’s Ashley Smith, Kelly Rusk and Lisa Wilcox for the 4x4x48 event to raise funds. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Courtenay Nissan eats and runs for YANA

Dealership realized non-profit groups need new ways to raise funds during COVID

Rev. Sulin Milne at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Comox is part of those helping distribute food to those in need within the town. Photo by Jim Peacock
Comox church serving the community with food through COVID-19

“We knew there were so many people who were facing economic challenges …”

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Most Read