Roberto Luongo has been a member of Team Canada for three Olympic games.
On Wednesday, he was named to Hockey Canada’s management for his fourth.
Less than two years removed from his Hall of Fame playing days, Luongo will be part of Team Canada’s group preparing for the men’s hockey tournament at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
Now a member of the Florida Panthers’ front office, Luongo said he was very surprised when he got the call that Team Canada wanted him to join their management team for the upcoming Olympics.
“It is hard to describe the level of excitement that I had when I got the call,” Luongo said on a Hockey Canada media call not long after he finished watching the Panthers’ practice at BB&T Center.
“Quite honestly, I was shocked, I was floored. I wasn’t expecting it. I thought I was getting a call to scout a pee-wee tournament but then I realized it was for Team Canada and the Olympics in 2022.
“It is an incredible honor to be a part of this group. I am really looking forward to it, excited to put a group together and being part o the process from the other side. I am very grateful to have that opportunity.”
Luongo will be one of three assistant GMs to Doug Armstrong with Edmonton GM Ken Holland being the associate.
Armstrong, the GM of the St. Louis Blues, will have Holland, Luongo, Ron Francis (former GM of Carolina, now with Seattle) and Don Sweeney (Boston GM) on his staff.
Although the NHL has not announced whether it will participate in the 2022 Winter Games — it did not do so in 2018 — it certainly appears the league is leaning that way.
In the new CBA signed between the league and its players’ association, the allowance to play in the Olympics is included.
But, the NHL and NHLPA need to come to an agreement with the International Olympic Committee before a return in 2022 is official.
If the NHL does have its playrers in Beijing, there would likely be no NHL All-Star Game held during the 2021-22 season because of the long break for the Winter Games.
The Panthers are hoping the league brings the 2022 All-Star Weekend to South Florida after the 2021 event was cancelled due to the coronavirus.
The 2021 event would have been held at BB&T Center this past weekend.
Luongo, obviously, has a wealth of playing experience both in the NHL and in the Olympics being a three-time representative for Team Canada and a two-time Gold Medal winner.
Upon his retirement as a player with the Panthers (he also spent time with the Islanders and Canucks during his 19 NHL seasons), Luongo joined Dale Tallon’s front office staff as a senior advisor.
”I think he had a nice approach getting away from the game,” Florida coach Joel Quenneville said.
“He was observing, watching, learning and was quiet about making the transition from a player to the management ranks. I think he has a good opinion about the game, he understands players and where they’re at. He understands coaches. He has a real good grasp of what it takes to be an NHLer and his assessment of players is part of that.”
When Bill Zito took over as GM of the Panthers, Luongo became part of the team’s new ‘Goaltending Excellence Department’ which includes himself, his younger brother Leo, goalie guru Francois Allaire and Florida goalie coach Robb Tallas.
“Roberto joins our group fresh off the ice,” Armstrong said.
“Roberto has worn the Canadian jersey with pride at all levels whether it’s the World Juniors, the World Championships or the Olympics.
“The last three Olympics (NHL players) have participated in, Roberto has been part of in 2006, 2010 and 2014 winning Gold Medals twice.”
Luongo was asked about the importance of helping select the right three goalies for the Olympic team and he will likely rely on his own experience as a player in doing so.
In his three stints with Team Canada, Luongo was a starter and a backup.
“You want to have a good mix,” Luongo said. “For myself, when there were three different scenarios all three (times) I was there.
“My first time in Torino, I was the young guy coming in and it was more of a learning experience. The second time in Vancouver, I was more established but I came in as the backup but I was ready if called upon and that is what ended up happening.
“The third time in Socchi, I was the veteran guy but was the backup and that was just as important a role as the one before. I was supportive to not only Carey (Price) but all the guys in the room, try to be a leader and bring whatever I could to the plate and help the boys be ready for the games.”
As for helping evaluate players for the 2022 team, Luongo will also use his knowledge of players he played against (and possibly with) not too long ago.
Luongo was teammates with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad, two players who will get strong consideration to be on Team Canada in 2022.
“I played with a lot of these guys, know most of them, so whatever experience I have with them or know myself, I will share that,” Luongo said.
“I think it’s important to recognize that every player dreams to be part of (this) team and Team Canada and will accept whatever role they’re given. I am happy to share any knowledge I have or any knowledge of any player I have played with.”
Said Armstrong: “He will certainly have a huge impact on our group as we’re selecting goaltenders but I want to make it clear he is here more for just the goaltenders.
“His experience dealing with these players, understanding today’s athlete — it was only a couple of years ago he was participating. I would say 90 percent of the people we will be talking about, Roberto has competed against and we really want his input.”