Longtime goaltender Roberto Luongo has announced his retirement after 19 seasons in the NHL.
He made the announcement Wednesday on Twitter.
I’ve decided to take my talents to a South Beach retirement home pic.twitter.com/BTuZIo8XT8
— Strombone (@strombone1) June 26, 2019
Luongo, 40, also penned a letter to fans, calling his decision to hang up his skates “one of the toughest decisions I’ve faced in my life.”
“I love the game so much, but the commitment I required to prepare, to keep my body ready, has become overwhelming,” he wrote. “Since I had my hip surgery a couple of years ago, I’ve been showing up two hours before every practice and three hours before every game to work out my hip. Even at night, whether it was the night before a game or even a night off, there I was rolling out, doing strengthening exercises. My entire life revolved around recovery, strengthening and making sure I was ready to go the next day.”
Luongo also expressed his gratitude towards the Vancouver Canucks, where he spent eight seasons, and said the city and its fans “will always hold a special place in my heart.”
The netminder said he’ll be staying put in Florida would like to remain involved in hockey in some way, but, for now, is “just another retiree in South Florida.”
“I’m building a home in Parkland and it’s going to be my family’s permanent home for the rest of our time on this earth,” he continued. “I’m proud to be a Parkland resident. We’ve been through a lot, but we came together. We’ve tried to heal together and we’ve tried to make our community and our world a better place.”
Luongo leaves with three seasons still remaining on the massive 12-year extension he signed with the Canucks in 2009. His decision to retire, rather than going on Florida’s LTIR, impacts both clubs’ bottom lines going forward.
Luongo's retirement leaves the @canucks on the hook for approx. $3M/year for the next 3 seasons.
— Tim and Sid (@timandsid) June 26, 2019
Luongo, who was drafted fourth overall by the New York Islanders in 1997, played 1,044 games split primarily between the Panthers and Canucks. He ranks second all-time in games played by a goalie and also sits third in league history in wins (489) and ninth in shutouts (77). He has five all-star nods to his name and holds several Panthers franchise records — most games played by a goaltender (572), wins (230), shutouts (38), saves (16,068) assists/points (13) — as well as plenty of single-season records, too. Over the years, his success in both Florida and Vancouver saw him named as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy three times, the Hart Memorial Trophy once, and most recently was among the finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2017-18.
Internationally, the Montreal native is a two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team Canada (2010 and 2014).
Luongo’s impact on the league extends far beyond his stats. Several of his Panthers teammates released statements following his retirement, thanking him for his leadership and wishing him the best going forward.
Here’s what they said:
From Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov:
“I’ve been lucky to play with Roberto for almost my entire NHL career, and I’ll never forget the presence that he brought to the locker room. I learned a lot from ‘Lu’ about how to prepare and be a professional on and off of the ice. I’m in awe of the legacy that he left on this franchise and on the sport.”
Forward Vincent Trocheck:
“From the moment I was fortunate enough to share a locker room with him, Roberto has exemplified leadership for me. There isn’t a classier, more professional guy in this league. He’s a great hockey player and somehow an even better person.”
Forward Jonathan Huberdeau:
“Having ‘Lu’ as a teammate and a friend these past several years was the best experience. Every night he was in net, we knew he would give us everything he had. I’m going to miss his presence in the locker room. He didn’t always speak, but when he did, everyone in the room listened.”
Defenceman Aaron Ekblad:
“Playing with ‘Lu’, learning from him and becoming friends with him has been an honor. He’s a legend in our game and a true teammate. The way he worked day in and day out is something I hope to replicate through the rest of my career. The passion he brought, mixed with his love for the sport would remind you of a young kid still chasing a dream. I wish him the best of health and happiness in his retirement.”
Defenceman Keith Yandle:
“‘Lu’ will be missed very much, not only by the guys on our team but by everyone involved in the game. He is one of those rare talents that comes into the sport once every 20 years or so. I am honored to call him a friend and a teammate and I will miss seeing him every day at the rink.”