Roberto Luongo and the magical 24-hour spell

If you’ve watched a lot of programs with witches (Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, et al), you may be familiar with the concept of the 24-hour spell.

The 24-hour spell is a mystical occurrence, something that happens to drastically change someone’s fate for exactly one day. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but either way, it usually serves to give somebody a special perspective he wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience. It could be a body swap. It could be a sudden aging of thirty years. It could be temporary magical powers. Whatever it is, it lasts exactly 24 hours, and then, the moment time is up — zap! — everything switches back to normal (or, in the case of Groundhog Day’s 24-hour spell, it starts over again).

I bring this up because we witnessed a perfectly-timed 24-hour spell this weekend in the Canucks’ crease. You could be upset about how this weekend’s set went. Or you could marvel at the fact that you saw magic happen.

It began during the Canucks’ season-opener Saturday night, at exactly 8:23 p.m., when Daniel Winnik scored his second of the night early in the middle frame to make the score 3-2 for the Anaheim Ducks. It was the first of three goals the Ducks would score in a three-minute span, chasing Cory Schneider from the game.

But it may not have been entirely Cory Schneider’s fault, and I’m not referring to HNIC analyst Kelly Hrudey’s argument that it takes 2 or 3 games for the extraocular muscles around the eyes to be retrained to the speed of NHL players shooting the puck. (Although that’s worth knowing about too.) Rather, it appears, to me at least, as though Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo came under a 24-hour spell.

Perhaps it happened inside of Roberto Luongo’s heart. Maybe he was sitting there at the bench on opening night, thinking to himself, “How did this happen? How am I the backup all of a sudden? I’ve been a starter my whole career.” He really had. Roberto Luongo played 48 games in his rookie season for the Florida Panthers in 2000-01. He hasn’t played fewer than 50 in a year since. The man has literally never been a backup at this level.

But, because he’s never been a backup, he’s also never experienced the simple thrill of being cheered into a game because the starter failed to meet the insane expectations of an insane fanbase. He’s always been the expectation-dasher. On Saturday night, he got to be the underdog, the relief.

Maybe he wished on the red light. Maybe a witch sympathetic to Luongo’s plight cast a spell. Maybe the moment the Winnik goal was scored, he and Cory Schneider both accidentally said, “I wish I had your job” at the same time. Either way, Luongo’s 24 hours as the beloved backup began the instant Winnik scored.

Three minutes later, suddenly, the Canucks were trailing 5-2. Schneider got the axe, and the crowd adjusted immediately, cheering for Luongo the backup as though he was better than the starter and should have been playing all along. In effect, Luongo got the Schneider treatment for the first time in his career. Meanwhile, Schneider got the Luongo treatment, forced to sit down in shame while fans cheered the other guy.

But it didn’t end there. As the backup, Luongo was given the start on the second night of the back-to-back, and he made the most of it, putting in the quintessential backup performance by giving the Canucks a chance to win. At least through two periods, that is. Luongo allowed just one goal — a seeing-eye backhand from Jordan Eberle that, while he may have lost the far post trying to cut off the near post, was forgivable since it was such a perfect shot. Even with that small error, he was headed for first-star honours, and one of those performances from a backup goaltender that makes one wonder if he shouldn’t be more than a backup. In effect: the performance Cory Schneider has been giving us for the last two years.

But then the clock struck 8:23pm on Sunday night, exactly 24 hours later, and the curse wore off.

Because the game started an hour earlier, 8:23 came later into the game — with just over six minutes remaining in the third period. At that precise moment, Ales Hemsky streaked down the wing on the powerplay and scored. It was a weak goal, and Luongo knew it, hanging his head in frustration. The fans knew it too, beginning to mumble about Luongo, and questioning whether he shouldn’t return to the bench. The game was tied at 2 with just 6 minutes to go, and all that backup love that Luongo had been basking in for the past 24 hours immediately dissipated. He was back to being the guy fans wanted out in favour of the other guy.

Then, to cement the return to normalcy, the game went to a shootout. Two shooters later, we were officially back to square one.

 

But for 24 wonderful hours, Luongo got to be the other guy.

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14 comments

  1. Sleepy Lewis
    January 21, 2013

    Cheeky. Well done.

    It’s amazing how much (IMO) lousy TV you two have watched. From Welcome Back Kotter to Sabrina the Teenage Witch and everything in between….you’ve got all of the silliest pop culture references covered….

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  2. Victoria
    January 21, 2013

    Luongo has been a back-up before. And he has come into game simply because the starter failed to meet the insane expectations of not just a fanbase but a nation. It was called the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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    Rating: +25 (from 25 votes)
  3. Brent
    January 21, 2013

    How do you come up with stuff like this? You should volunteer for medical/psychological experiments, your brain is obviously wired in a unique and wonderful way!

    Or do you just have some fancy phone app that makes random connections between very different things so you can come up with blog ideas?

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    • Zach Morris
      January 21, 2013

      It’s simply the most reasonable explanation for why fans vaciallate between loving and hating Lu

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      Rating: +4 (from 6 votes)
  4. bestbehaviour
    January 21, 2013

    ‘Maybe the moment the Winnik goal was scored, he and Cory Schneider both accidentally said, “I wish I had your job” at the same time.’ Ha.

    Do goaltenders in any other cities get this kind of chatter, besides Toronto?

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    Rating: +7 (from 7 votes)
  5. Adrian
    January 21, 2013

    This is why I read this blog.

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    Rating: +8 (from 10 votes)
  6. Nee
    January 21, 2013

    You guys are the best

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    Rating: +3 (from 5 votes)
  7. tom selleck's moustache
    January 21, 2013

    As others have already mentioned, I too sometimes wonder from where you get your inspirations. A lot of the stuff you come up with, such as this, is genius. Thanks, Mooney.

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    Rating: +6 (from 8 votes)
    • Harrison Mooney
      January 21, 2013

      Ha. Thanks all.

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  8. Doop
    January 22, 2013

    I think I’ve finally realized that Luongo is going to be leaving this team. Wow, this is a bitter sadness I’m feeling.

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    Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
  9. Can't skate backwards
    January 22, 2013

    Mooney = single handedly responsible for my office laughter outbursts for 2 years now. Solid work.

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    Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
  10. wes lee
    January 22, 2013

    loved this piece. really made me laugh!!!

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  11. Aaron
    January 22, 2013

    Luongo put the Nucks on the hockey map the first day he played for them. How soon everyone forgets. Having him as a back up is an insult to the position of goaltending. You don’t deserve him just like the Habs fans didn’t deserve Roy.

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  12. TeeJay
    January 24, 2013

    It’s like watching the final episode of FRINGE Mooney. FAITH and DESTINY. Hey! by the way did you watch the FINAL Episode of FRINGE?

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