SUNRISE — So, if you did not stay tuned in until the end of the NHL All-Star Skills competition at FLA Live Arena, well, you probably were not alone.
But you may have missed some fun moments with a couple of players from the Florida Panthers — and their Hall of Fame goalie.
Luongo was back on the ice for the Panthers on Friday night, donning a familiar red Florida home jersey and his ‘Pink Panther’ mask which has become one of his most famous looks.
He said the NHL asked him about donning the pads again and being part of his hometown All-Star Game and he jumped at the opportunity.
While many of the skit-type events felt a little staged … the ones involving the Panthers were no different.
Luongo ended up playing goal for all of the Breakaway Challenge shots, stopping a Sonny Crockett-themed Mitch Marner before sprawling out on the ice to allow Alex Ovechkin’s 4-year-old son Sergei score on him with an assist from Sidney Crosby.
“I knew the dad is a shooter so when he had it on the stick, I was ready for a shot but he went for a deke,” Luongo deadpanned afterward. “It kind of caught me off guard there.”
Later in the program, Matthew Tkachuk came out to challenge Luongo and he brought his brother Brady and teammate Sasha Barkov to help out.
After a short video shot on the beach, the two Tkachuk brothers came out onto the ice in beach attire. Barkov came out wearing a Lifeguard hoody and red shorts with Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins thrown in for good measure.
Tkachuk beat Luongo — he discarded his goalie stick for a pool noodle — as he flipped the puck into his bucket hat and with Luongo going left, he went right.
Hat and all.
“We thought it went well, were talking about it before but it all happened so fast,” Tkachuk said, adding he wanted to get someone from another local team involved and was happy Wilkins was game. “We had Brady, Barky, Luongo and Christian there I thought it went alright.’’
Earlier in the week, Luongo talked about not having put on his goalie gear since what was his final game with the Panthers in 2019.
But this week, he and his former goalie coach Robb Tallas got a long workout in and Luongo had a new set of pads CCM designed and gifted him to commemorate his Hall of Fame career.
There were references to the Panthers, Canucks and Team Canada on them — there was even a ‘C’ from when Luongo was captain in Vancouver.
Not to be forgotten, a blue-and-orange stripe at the top of the pads commemorated his start with the Islanders.
Barkov, who played with Luongo from 2014-19, said having him participate Friday brought back some great memories.
Luongo re-joined the Panthers in a blockbuster deal with the Canucks at the end of Barkov’s rookie season.
“Every time Lu stepped on the ice when he played, people were screaming his name,’’ Barkov said. “He is a huge part of this organization. He came (back) that year; I know he was here before, but it really showed me how much he means to this community and how much people and the fans love him.
“His number is retired here because he means a lot to this place. To be with him on the ice — I don’t know if he wants to be on the ice anymore — but it was sure fun for us.”
For Luongo, the best times were the ones he may have taken for granted.
Blocking shots during warmups; hearing the booming ‘Luuuuuuuu’ chants; just sitting on the end of the bench in a baseball cap taking everything in.
“It was great and it never gets old. That was fun,” he said of the chants.
“I heard it Toronto for the Hall of Fame week and it was nice to hear, and coming from the Panthers fans, it was great as well. Brought up a lot of good memories. It was nice to be back in the blue paint. …
“The warmup was the best part. I got to take a lot of shots from NHL players and the other guys didn’t want to do it so I went in. It was great to be out there, great to be in the locker room and reminisce about about past All-Star games as well.”
As for Tkachuk and Luongo, they looked like they were having a great time themselves.
Tkachuk got to involve his brother as they both wore garish tropical shirts and Barkov dressed up like a lifeguard. Well, one who picked up a sweatshirt at an airport gift shop and wears team-issued slides.
He said the ideas came from members of the Panthers’ PR team with input from the league.
“The goggles, I added at the last minute,’’ he said. “As I was flipping the puck, I regretted it. I wish I didn’t do that. It worked out, but it very easily could not have.”
How hard was it to talk Barkov into donning the red hoodie?
”One text message,” Barkov said.
And, is Barkov a registered lifeguard?
”I can blow the whistle, I can run,” he said. “That’s about it”
Tkachuk and Barkov also took part in other events this week with Barkov not making the final in the accuracy shot after a fast start.
On Thursday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, Tkachuk competed in the Splash Shot as he and Brady teamed up again.
The three — Brady, Matthew and Barkov — are expected to be linemates today in the All-Star Game.
“I hope it goes well,” Barkov said. “We’ll see how we feel (Saturday). But I am excited and I hope my linemates are excited as well.”
Said Tkachuk: “I’m excited, we just have to make sure Brady is ready to go.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
NHL ALL-STAR GAME
- What: NHL All-Star Game
- When: 3 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV: ABC
- Schedule: Central Division vs. Pacific, 3 p.m.; Atlantic Division vs. Metropolitan, 4; Winning teams in Championship, 5
- Rosters: CLICK HERE
- Tournament Format: There will be three, 20-minute games played in a 3-on-3 format; goalies will rotate in at the 10-minute break. Single elimination. Winning team splits $1 million.
- Extra: NHL All-Star Beach Festival at Fort Lauderdale Beach, Noon-6 p.m.
- Up Next for the Panthers: vs. Tampa Bay, Monday, 7 p.m. (BSF)