He never won the Stanley Cup or the Vezina Trophy. But with 489 wins in the NHL, the fourth-highest total, and an Olympic gold medal, goaltender Roberto Luongo saw the doors of the Hockey Hall of Fame open for himself on Monday.
The Montreal native will make his Toronto debut in November alongside his former Vancouver Canucks teammates, twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and Finnish forward Riikka Sallinen.
Herb Carnegie, considered the all-time greatest black hockey player in the NHL, is also inducted as a builder.
Like Luongo, no player in this vintage of 2022 – the first in two years due to the pandemic – has carried hockey’s Holy Grail at a distance.
“I never won the Stanley Cup, but I was able to play at the top of my game for several seasons,” the 43-year-old Quebec native noted during a conference call. And it’s because of my work ethic that I’ve been able to perform like this for several years.
Emotional and feverish
Luongo wore the jersey for just 24 games for the New York Islanders, the team that made him fourth pick at the 1997 auction.
Rather, he left his mark on the history of his sport with the Florida Panthers and the Canucks.
The goaltender will have captained Vancouver for two seasons, an unusual fact in modern hockey. He helped the team reach the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Boston Bruins.
Luongo then returned to Florida with a goal of leading the Panthers to the playoffs.
What he achieved in 2016, three election campaigns before he hung up his leggings at the venerable 40 years of age.
Luongo received the Temple Call in his first year of eligibility. And it triggered great emotions in him.
“You never really expect that. If you answer and it is [le Temple de la renommée] In the end, it’s exciting,” admitted the former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League player.
The Sedin twins will have done almost everything the same way during their 17 seasons with the Canucks. Daniel will have accumulated 1041 points in 1306 games. Henrik, 1070 in 1330.
And here they are, the two Swedish forwards who became immortal on the same day, also in their first year of eligibility.
“My brother and I entered the league at the same time. There is something very special about entering the temple with him. I’m so proud of this recognition,” said Daniel, who finished second overall in 1999, one place ahead of his twin.
Alfredsson was the face of senators for nearly two decades and had waited five years for the Hall of Fame doors to open to him.
For the attacker with 1157 points in 1246 games, this inauguration was “very special”.
“It’s an honour,” added the Swede, a two-time Olympic medalist, who is now 49. We don’t think about it too much when we play, but now that I’m retired I’m touched to find myself alongside such big names in the temple.
A European premiere
Finnish striker Sallinen became the first European ice hockey player to be admitted to the arena on Monday.
The former player has had a long and successful career on the international scene. She won Olympic bronze twice: in Nagano in 1998 and in Pyeongchang 20 years later.
She is also the oldest female ice hockey player of either gender to win a medal at the Games. She was 44 years old at the time.
The fight against prejudice
Carnegie was inducted as a builder and never played in the NHL.
At the time, Conn Smyth, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, reportedly said of the center player that he “would have put him on his team if someone could have given him a white skin”.
The Torontonian had offers to play with the New York Rangers affiliates but not the big club.
He preferred to stay in Quebec, playing in the Quebec Provincial Hockey League and the Quebec Senior Hockey League, where he had a 127-point in 56-game season at Sherbrooke.
Carnegie also wore the uniform of the Quebec Aces along with Jean Béliveau.
Carnegie died 10 years ago and after retiring in the early 1950s worked tirelessly to increase diversity in hockey.
Due to the pandemic, the newcomers of 2020 entered the temple in November. Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe, Doug Wilson, Kim St-Pierre and Ken Holland were admitted.
Inspired by Grant Fuhr and Patrick Roy
Roberto Luongo grew up with Grant Fuhr’s idol. When playing on the streets of his neighborhood, the Montreal native liked to mimic the punches of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty goaltender.
Then, when he wanted to learn the basics of the position, Luongo was inspired by Patrick Roy.
And now he becomes an immortal, like his two inspirations. But the Quebecois isn’t necessarily nostalgic for what goalkeepers were like in their day.
Because Luongo explained that he sees the development of the position with a good eye. He recalled Monday that he’s been trying to get ahead on the circuit himself for almost two decades and that it may have opened the doors to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
the best people
It’s something special, this class of 2022. There are several players who know each other well, including three former teammates at the Canucks in Luongo, as well as Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
It was therefore to be expected that all of these new immortals would throw flowers at each other as they spoke to journalists a few hours after the news broke on Monday.
And they did. Luongo is inducted alongside two players he enjoyed training against during his years in Vancouver.
“The best thing about this induction is that I will be entering the arena with two of my absolute favorite teammates. Two of the best people I know,” said the former goalkeeper.
“It was incredible to watch them train. Knowing that they could be on the ice without seeing each other. They were great competitors and great teammates,” he continued.
“I couldn’t be happier to be back at the same time as Henrik and Roberto,” added Daniel Sedin. Roberto is also one of my favorite people.”
power leg will he be there
Luongo is the fourth best goalkeeper in history, behind three other Quebecers: Martin Brodeur, Roy and Marc-André Fleury.
But on social networks he is considered one of the funniest athletes. On his Twitter account Strombone1, “Lou” likes to make self-deprecating remarks.
And many fans are already hoping that his introductory speech will go in the same direction.
“I’ll certainly do a little tweeting during the ceremony,” Luongo exclaimed. It’s something that has helped me get through the tougher times. I’m trying to be funny on this platform, but it’s really therapeutic.”
“We’ll see what happens in November, but I can’t promise [que je serai aussi drôle]!”