Luongo says the good memories from his seven-plus seasons out west dwarf the bad, the only real downers being the devastation of losing Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on home ice to the Boston Bruins and the fact a disproportionate amount of blame for the Canucks’ ultimate shortcomings seemed to be laid at the pads of a goalie who was among the best performers at his position. “At the beginning, I didn’t know how to handle it,” Luongo says. “Maybe I wasn’t mature enough to take on the load of the criticism. It’s unfortunate that [it wasn’t until] the last two [or] three years of my time there [that] I really understood how things work and how to handle criticism, which is a key part of being an athlete.”
The writing may have been on the wall during Luongo’s trying final years in B.C., but the fact his name was on a 12-year contract, signed in 2010, also limited the team’s ability to move him, as did the no-trade clause contained in the deal. The family certainly contemplated the idea of returning full-time to South Florida, where they never stopped spending summers, but it didn’t seem destined to be. “I wasn’t expecting to come back here,” Luongo says. “We had kind of put an ‘X’ on that after the first few months of being on the trade block.”
As such, it was another sunny surprise when the opportunity arose. For all the pull of home, though, this was always about more than Luongo escaping the glare and getting a jump on his golden years. Part of the reason he agreed to the deal was because he saw the makings of a competitive club and, sure enough, in his second full season back with the Panthers, Florida claimed the 2015–16 Atlantic Division crown with 103 points. At age 36, Luongo finished fourth in voting for the Vezina Trophy that, somewhat incredibly, has never made its way to his mantel.
Originally published at https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/roberto-luongo-parkland-florida-panthers-big-read/