For the first time in Florida Panthers history, Roberto Luongo’s jersey number will be retired as part of a special commemoration.
Through the years, Luongo has been a fan favorite, whether presently on the Cats or not. His impact for the South Florida community goes way beyond his play on the ice, which has touched the hearts of many, including myself.
On Saturday, March 7, 2020, against the Montreal Canadiens, the Panthers will retire Roberto Luongo’s No. 1 jersey at the BB&T Center before the puck is officially dropped.
The talks of having something like this done have been in the minds of many over the last few seasons as Luongo has spoken about the possibility of retirement. To see his jersey number soon be raised in the rafters of the BB&T is no surprise, and was only a matter of time until he hung up the skates.
June 24, 2000, is the day that changed the franchise forever. The Panthers acquired Roberto Luongo and center Olli Jokinen from the New York Islanders in exchange for winger Mark Parrish and center Oleg Kvasha.
The trade was purely a steal on the Panthers’ part as they had acquired two future stars that would end up leading the team. The other moving parts (Parrish and Kvasha) didn’t quite pan out in Long Island.
Luongo would spend the next five seasons with the Panthers (2000/01-2005/06), placing third as a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2003-04, while also participating in the 2004 NHL All-Star Game. He also recorded 26 shutouts during that time span, good for third-best in the league among goaltenders through those five seasons.
Before the 2006-07 NHL campaign was about to start, Florida dealt their franchise netminder to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for forward Todd Bertuzzi, defenseman Bryan Allen, and goaltender Alex Auld. Defenseman Lukáš Krajíček and sixth-round draft pick (Sergei Shirokov) were also shipped off to Vancouver as part of the trade.
Luongo would spend the next eight seasons with the Canucks (2006/07-2013/14), winning the Jennings Trophy in 2010-11, finishing as runner-up in the race for the Hart and Vezina (2006-07), and placing third and fourth in the hunt for the Vezina in 2010-11 and 2008-09, respectively.
He witnessed the most playoff success in his career during the 2010-11 season, where the Vancouver Canucks made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, ultimately losing in seven games to the gritty Boston Bruins.
That series will always be remembered as a “what if” scenario for the Canucks organization and goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Eventually, as Luongo began to age and his play started to decline, the Canucks were doing everything they could to ship off Luongo and his contract. The majority of the teams around the league weren’t interested, citing his age and hefty contract as to why they were reluctant to participate in a trade revolving Lu.
But there was one team that not only needed an experienced starting netminder but wanted their former franchise goaltender back: the Florida Panthers.
A day before the trade deadline on March 4, 2014, the Panthers acquired Roberto Luongo (marking his second stint with the organization) and prospect Steven Anthony in exchange for netminder Jacob Markstrom and center Shawn Matthias. As part of the trade, the Canucks retained some of Luongo’s salary.
Now a veteran among a crop of young kids that would grow up to make the core, Luongo played his part as a mentor to the likes of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, and Aaron Ekblad.
He helped guide the Cats to a magnificent regular-season run in 2015-16, in which the Panthers placed first in the Atlantic Division. As well, this marked the first playoff series that Roberto Luongo would play in as a member of the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers were set to play the New York Islanders in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, unfortunately coming up short in a 4-2 series loss. Luongo played in all six playoff matches for the Panthers that series.
"“A true professional, competitor and gentleman, Roberto set the standard for players in this organization. There was never a question in any of our minds that Roberto would be the first Panthers player to have his number retired by the franchise. One of the game’s most iconic goaltenders, he gave his heart and soul to the Panthers and the South Florida community and carried himself with dignity, modesty and humor. Roberto is most deserving of this honor and we are thrilled for him, and his family.”"
In eleven seasons with the Panthers organization, Luongo owns franchise records in these nine categories: games played by a goaltender (572), wins (230), shutouts (38), saves (16,068), assists/points (13), single-season games played by a goaltender (75, 2005-06), single-season wins (35, 2005/06-2015/16), single-season saves (2,303), and single-season shutouts (tied-7, 2003-04).
In addition, Luongo ranks second in NHL history in games played by a goaltender (1,044), third in wins (489), and ninth in shutouts (77). He’s one of only three goaltenders to have played 1,000+ games in NHL history.
As someone who grew up watching Roberto Luongo for the Panthers, Canucks, and even the Canadian Men’s National Ice Hockey Team, I want to personally thank Luongo from the bottom of my heart for all the long-lasted memories he created for hockey fans around the globe.
To end off with some wise words from the man himself, here’s a sign off from goaltender Roberto Luongo (per NHL.com).
“I want to thank the entire Panthers organization for this incredible recognition. It’s quite an honor to be the first player to have his number retired by the Panthers. I’m truly looking forward to sharing this special night with my friends, family, teammates and the Panthers fans.”
Thank you, Lu! Thank you for all that you’ve done. Your legacy will always be remembered and reflected upon.