Roberto Luongo speaks to James Duthie, doesn’t talk about poker

On Tuesday, the Vancouver Sun’s own Iain Macintyre theorized on Twitter that Roberto Luongo would make a statement before Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp. Without a clear statement from Luongo that he was returning to the Canucks, the media circus surrounding Luongo would surely overshadow the camp.

Sure enough, Luongo sat down with his good friend James Duthie at TSN to bring the saga to some sort of conclusion.

Really, there was little in the way of new information. We already knew that Luongo was coming to training camp and would honour his contract, which is all that really mattered. The only difference is that we got to hear it directly from Luongo. He also gave a little bit of insight into his state of mind over the last year, from not getting traded at the deadline to hearing that Cory Schneider was traded at the draft.

Unlike his previous interviews this off-season, Luongo didn’t say a word about poker, which will surely disappoint some of his fans. Right? No?

Duthie, knowing what people want to know, asked the most important question: Are you going to show up at Canucks camp motivated to be the starting goaltender for that team?

“Yeah, no doubt,” Luongo replied, which sounded fantastic until he continued. “I mean, I have a contract. I plan to honour it. There’s a lot at stake for me this year. First and foremost I want to re-establish myself as one of the top goalies in the league.”

What people really want to hear is that Luongo is happy with how things turned out, thrilled to be back with the Canucks, and excited for the opportunity to continue playing in Vancouver. In other words, people want him to lie. Luongo isn’t happy with how things turned out, but he’s also a professional who will honour his contract and play his absolute best for his team and prove to his detractors that he is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL

“I had come to the conclusion that I had moved on from Vancouver and I was ready to start a fresh new chapter of my career somewhere else.” Duthie then asked him if it felt like a divorce, which Luongo agreed with. “I use that analogy all the time. That’s what it felt like and I had accepted it and was fine with it and had moved on, personally. The only problem is she wanted me back.”

As for how Luongo found out that Schneider had been traded, it happened at the last minute. Francesco Aquilini visited Luongo in person in Florida. He showed up a few picks into the draft, asked him to turn off the TV since Luongo was watching draft coverage at the time, and let him know that the Canucks had traded Cory Schneider just moments before Luongo’s phone started blowing up.

“I was kind of floored, to be honest with you,” Luongo said. “Out of all the situations that I envisioned that could possibly happen, that wasn’t one of them…I wasn’t angry, just shocked, mostly. I was just trying to figure out the reasons why a decision like that would be made, especially without consulting me. That’s a pretty big move to make without having an input from the guy you’re going to put your trust in.”

This means that the Canucks traded Schneider without checking with Luongo to ensure he was on board with returning to the Canucks, which is concerning. It also means that Francesco Aquilini is the kind of guy who asks people to turn off their own TVs when he visits their house, which is less concerning, but still.

When it comes to returning to the Canucks next season, Luongo’s still coming to grips with it, though he says he’s “ready to go” and has been training hard in preparation for camp. He’s “turned the corner” in his words. I suspect that actually getting on the ice with his teammates will help a great deal. Without games to play, there’s too much time to think and worry.

Duthie then looked back at the trade deadline and earlier, asking Luongo if he turned down a trade.

“I never turned down a trade,” Luongo replied, which is about as clear as it gets. “What happened was, one or two days before last year’s draft, Mike told me that there were two or three teams that were interested. He said ‘interested,’ he never said, ‘I have a trade for this team or this team,’ and all I said to Mike was, ‘Mike, if you can try to do something with either Florida or Tampa, I would appreciate that and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll move on.’”

“There was never a trade on the table that I turned down.”

This sounds very similar to what I suggested had occurred back in April. Luongo never actually had to use his no trade clause, but he did ask Gillis to try to get a deal done with Florida (or Tampa, it turns out) before pursuing any deals elsewhere.

They did ask Luongo to waive his no trade clause at the trade deadline this year, to the point that he actually signed the waiver. That’s part of why he ended up so emotional, as he went straight from thinking that he had been traded to Gillis walking in and telling him the deal fell through. “I might have cried in front of another man,” said Luongo, grinning.

Duthie then asked if he regretted the famous quote after the trade deadline: “My contract sucks.”

“I don’t regret it. I meant what I said,” he made clear, “I kind of still feel that way. I’m very grateful for the life I have doing something that I love and getting paid well to do it. There’s no doubt about that.”

Luongo even looked into voiding his contract. “I explored every possibility and that was definitely one of them. At that point, there’s different logistics to something like that and it’s very complicated, but definitely it was something that I was looking at and ready to do if the opportunity came up.”

If that concerns Canucks fans (it concerns me a little bit), he assuaged those fears with the final statement of the interview.

“Wherever I am, I’m going to be 100% committed to that place. Right now I’m in Vancouver and I’m 100% committed to that.”

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28 comments

  1. Mitch
    August 23, 2013

    I give some huge props to Lui for being so honest and forthcoming there. It’s been a hell of a year for him; here’s hoping he can come back with his head on straight and prove he’s still one of the best in the league.

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  2. akidd
    August 23, 2013

    faint praise, id’ say. but what can you expect? if i were to interpret this i’d say that lou is stilled pissed but knows playing on the canucks this year and thus hopefully the olympic team is his only shot at redmption. it’s pretty hard to glean any particular loyalty to the canucks out of his responses.

    perfectly understandable. things may change and could easily with a successful season with teammates and new coach but i have to think that lou is going into this hoping he can play well enough to be tradeable when the clause comes up in his contract next summer.

    things change but right now it’s not hard to see a future with lack and ericsson in net and a couple of burnt bridges in the rear-view mirror.

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  3. Carlo
    August 23, 2013

    Definitely appreciated the honesty from Lu.

    I agree with you that getting back on the ice will help things a lot. He loves his teammates and he’ll be ready to go especially if he’s on a roll!

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  4. Nee
    August 23, 2013

    Such an honest interview. No sugarcoating or saying what the fans want to hear. He’s just telling the truth. Makes me appreciate him even more.

    No matter what happens during and after this season, I’ll always be a fan of #1.

    And selfishly, I’m just kinda happy that I have an excuse to wear my Lu jersey again. : )

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  5. Neil B
    August 23, 2013

    Lou’s answers were honest and exactly what one would expect. To him, right now, the Canucks are Gillis and the Aquilinis. Once he gets back to town and back to playing, the Canucks will be the guys in the room & the fans in the stands. He’ll play for them.

    Just a question: isn’t 2014 Lou’s “opt out” season?

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    • Daniel Wagner
      August 24, 2013

      I think that’s a really insightful way to put it. Once the Canucks are his teammates and fans again, I think it’ll help.

      As for it being Luongo’s opt out season, that’s a moot point. He was already willing to waive his no trade clause, so opting out of it won’t change anything.

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      • Gary
        August 24, 2013

        If he does opt out next year, where does that leave everyone (or at least Luongo and the Canucks, rather than all of us, who’d probably find some time to talk about it…)?

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        • Daniel Wagner
          August 25, 2013

          It leaves everyone in the same place they are now. It changes literally nothing. As far as I am aware, the opting out only affects his no-trade clause, which he is already willing to waive.

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          • akidd
            August 25, 2013

            not sure at all here, but doesn’t the clause require lou to submit a list of five teams, which is three more teams than he officially approved last deadline when he said(to paraphrase),”gee whillickers, mr. gillis, I sho don’t want to trouble you none but if it weren’t too much to ask, and if you absolutely have to trade me, then i suppose i might show a wee bit of preference towards florida or tampa, if it pleases you , sir, of course, if it pleases you…”

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            • Daniel Wagner
              August 25, 2013

              I fully believe that if a trade had materialized for a team other than Florida or Tampa, Luongo would have waived his no trade clause. It’s a moot point now, as Luongo has shown a willingness to waive his no trade clause to go anywhere else.

              I’m not sure about the specifics of Luongo’s opt out in his contract, but it’s a moot point. He’s shown that he’s willing to waive his no trade clause to go to pretty much any team at this point, so why should it matter if he has a list of five teams rather than two? At this point, if he still wants a trade his list is probably close to 29 teams long. So, it doesn’t matter in the slightest if this is the year that he can opt out, because he’s essentially opted out already.

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              • akidd
                August 25, 2013

                lou said he never nixed any trades per say because no ACTUAL trade was ever presented to him. when talking to gillis before the deadline he only gave the greenlight for 2 teams, not 29. so five teams on the list is better than two.

                it’s all legalese. you guys know that right/?every word and expression is well thought out and more or less scripted. it’s like diplomat-speak. lou never said he’d waive his no-trade clause for any team but florida and tampa which means there’s no reason for you to “fully believe.” if lou wants to be traded next year he’ll have to list five.

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      • Pavo
        August 25, 2013

        I’m afraid I have to agree with akidd. This is a carefully scripted interview to manage Roberto’s public image.

        He admits that he asked Gillis to facilitate a trade to 1 of 2 teams – I interpret that as Roberto making it clear that he would initially only consider a trade to either Florida or Tampa Bay. Under those circumstances, I find it doubtful that Gillis, (who has publicly stated that he will not ask a player to waive a NTC), would finalise a trade to a different team to the point that he needed to formally ask Luongo to waive his NTC.

        By the time Roberto accepted the hard reality that the Florida teams either didn’t want him, or the Canucks weren’t willing to subsidize the transfer, it was too late.

        Roberto and his agent should have foreseen the challenges associated with moving a $40M contract to a budget team – with or without the new CBA.

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  6. PB
    August 24, 2013

    I’m a bit confused about the voiding the contract bit. Does that mean he was willing to actually shelve his longterm contract and all those millions in order to be able to play somewhere else? How would that have even worked?

    I also appreciate the honesty of his answers. I don’t necessarily agree with him that the Canucks should have been checking in with him, but then players react to trades (or being drafted for that matter) in very different ways. Luongo is an emotional guy and despite the (often unjustifiably) bad press our notoriously fickle fanbase gives him you can’t deny his desire to play and to win. I’m sure he’ll come and compete hard this season and give us at least a year if not several of top quality goaltending.

    Whatever else has happened with the team, I think it’s still in a better direction that it was at the start of lockout shortened season.

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  7. Jason
    August 24, 2013

    I am very disappointed in Luongo, James Duthie and TSN. What on earth is a Luongo interview if it does not contain at least one person being run over by a zamboni. Instead we got the most serious interview ever, so much wasted potential.

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  8. will
    August 25, 2013

    If voiding his contract was ever an option, even if there were some ‘technical hurdles’ to overcome, I don’t see why that option wasn’t explored, given that Luongo seems so unhappy playing anywhere but in the state of Florida. The man signed a 12 year contract, surely you don’t need a phD to understand the ramifications of trying to trade a contract like that. Perhaps his agent at the time could have informed him of some of the possible problems associated with moving teams. Maybe that’s why he got a new agent.

    Overall all I know is that I’m a Canuck fan and a fan of the city of Vancouver, but I’m simply not a fan of this guy and his attitude anymore. Please spare me the myopic ‘you’re being too defeatist, everything will be fine, it’s just a job for these guys what do you expect’ responses. It is a job, it’s called professional hockey…emphasis on professional, which he isn’t being, whining about how broken-hearted he is to not be playing in Florida. He’s had the power at every step to play where he wants, either by performing well enough to make himself desirable to another team through trade, or by signing a more movable contract (or not signing in Vancouver at all, if the city is so horrible to play in, which I guess when you are princess Luongo, who still needs to live with her parents in Florida, it must be.) And for the record I wouldn’t involve his wife but for the fact that Luongo himself referenced how much he and his family love living in the sunshine state, and the woman, to the best of my knowledge, has never made an effort to show up in Vancouver to attend even the limited functions that other player wives and girlfriends (many of who’s spouses make far less money than Roberto) take the time to attend.

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    • PB
      August 25, 2013

      I think that’s a little harsh. It’s true that Luongo has an ego and is a pretty emotional guy but you can’t put all of this on him. Some of the comments he made I don’t agree with (having the Canucks check in with him before trading him) but you can’t really blame him for being surprised and upset at the turn of events. This is a guy who (finally) provided consistent top quality goaltending for a club that outside of Kirk McLean, Suitcase Smith, and an amazing playoff run by Brodeur have endured some abysmal goaltending. We obsess about his meltdowns against the Blackhawks and Bruins (and to a lesser extent the Ducks) but are we really pining for the days of Cloutier, Essensa, Snow or before that Caprice, Weeks, Garret, etc? Why would he not have signed the contract for the extension — as so many others did, not anticipating the changing CBA or the punitive (and petty) clawbacks insisted on by Bettman and co.? He was the consummate professional last year after getting pulled the previous playoffs and losing his starting job. He never sniped at Schneider, he never threw his teammates under the bus (which I remember him kind of doing earlier in his career) and he never publicly discussed his discontent — until his frustrations boiled over (trade deadline, and draft day).

      His not getting moved never had to do with his performance, it had to do with some contract stuff out of his control and a lot of other teams needs and perceived bargaining position.

      I think he’s been both honest and fairly professional. I don’t know why we expect him to be less than human and for his first priority after the Schneider trade to be salving the worried feelings of Canucks’ fans rather than to take care of himself and his family.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      August 25, 2013

      I’m seriously baffled by anyone who thinks that Luongo’s had a bad attitude throughout all of this. He’s handled this about as professionally and with as much good humour as I think could possibly be expected. At what point has he been unprofessional?

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    • Pavo
      August 25, 2013

      To get a broader perspective on this mess, I slogged my way through the 2006 Panthers threads on HFboards in the months leading up to Luongo’s trade from Florida.

      They make for depressing reading. The same determination by Luongo and his agent to control the contract extension process to maximize value for Luongo without acknowledging the Panthers’ needs. The same ambition to be the ‘highest paid goalie in the NHL’. The same inability to recognize the Panthers management’s growing frustration with the stalled negotiations, even when the latter publicly started floating a trade as a possible resolution to the impasse.

      And then, the same shocked reaction when the other negotiating party resolved the situation by making a move not to Luongo’s liking.

      It seems neither Luongo nor his agent learnt anything from that experience.

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      • PB
        August 25, 2013

        These two situations are not the same. Luongo wasn’t the one who decided he wanted out of Vancouver. This wasn’t about forcing a trade to get more playing time. It was acknowledging that he’d been supplanted by Schneider on the basis of being younger, slightly cheaper in real dollars, a lot cheaper by term of contract, and the team deciding to go in a different direction.

        The implication is that Luongo and his agent overplayed his hand. I’ve not seen anything that Gillis offered something concrete to Luongo that he either vetoed or turned his nose up at. In one respect the outcome of all of this might be that Gillis was perhaps trying to a) get too much in return, b) respect Luongo’s wishes enough that he narrowed his field of vision to only a handful of teams and c) we keep making all kinds of assumptions over speculation by jackasses like Dreger who report it like facts.

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        • Pavo
          August 25, 2013

          PB,

          I agree this is not similar to the Hodgson situation.

          However, unless the Canucks made it clear to Luongo behind the scenes that he was not wanted and that they preferred to go forward with Schneider, I don’t consider being benched for 3 games in the playoffs as sufficient reason to ask for a trade out of town.

          Such situations are a hard fact of life in professional sports. After all, Luongo got the Olympic gold medal gig because he outplayed the perceived starter for Team Canada.

          Personally I believe Luongo doesn’t want out of Vancouver per se, but instead wants to move back to Florida for family reasons. Schneider’s emergence as a very good tender meant he could ask for a trade, without leaving the Canucks ‘high and dry’ in net. Unfortunately for him Florida didn’t want him, and post the new CBA – neither did any other team.

          So here we are.

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  9. Amor de Cosmos
    August 26, 2013

    When did Luongo ask for a trade? I remember him saying at the end of the 2012 playoffs that he’d be willing to withdraw his no-trade clause if asked, but that’s far from the same thing.

    I thought at the time, and still do, this was an attempt to force Gillis to make a public decision as to who was the #1 keeper, to kill the massive speculation following the play-offs. I think Luongo (and probably Schneider too) wanted clarity. Gillis made his choice — possibly one neither player expected — and it hasn’t been optimal for anyone. There’s no one wearing the black, or white, hat here. Only differing shades of grey.

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    • Pavo
      August 26, 2013

      Amor,

      Shades of grey – or semantics?

      I still think that 3 games is an insufficient sample to get one’s nose out of joint. Superstar athlete, or humble clerk – we all have to deal with unwelcome situations in the workplace. Life isn’t perfect. (Poor Ballard put up with 3 years of misery without complaint).

      Personally, I believe Roberto wants to move back East, preferably to Florida, because of family reasons – and that is perfectly understandable. So, even though he is now the undisputed starter here, I don’t see him wanting to be a Canuck long term.

      I hope Roberto comes back with a chip on his shoulder, shows all those GMs who didn’t want him that he is still an outstanding goalie, and gets a trade closer to home. And that the fans show him their full support during his time here – he is still a member of the tribe.

      As for the Canucks (who are equally responsible for this mess), – here’s hoping that one of Lack or Eriksson becomes an above average starter :) !

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      • Daniel Wagner
        August 26, 2013

        You say it’s three games, but it’s not at all. It was clear to everyone that Schneider was going to be the number one goaltender for Vancouver in the future and it’s completely understandable that Luongo would want to go somewhere where he could be the number one goaltender again. Conveniently, it seemed like both Florida and Tampa Bay were in need of a number one guy.

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        • Pavo
          August 26, 2013

          Daniel,

          I don’t want to be the argumentative guest that bores everyone at parties – okay, for the last time, here I go :) !

          I’m basing my opinion, not on how the Canucks 11-12 season played out, but on what I’ve gleaned about the past histories of the 2 parties.

          Gillis, for all his flaws, is not known for ruthlessness in his dealings with his players. Heck, one of the fanbase’s biggest complaints is that he allowed the Hodgson camp to push him into trading Cody for a ‘sub-par’ return. And that he doesn’t dump ‘under-performing’ players quickly enough!

          Roberto and his agent on the other hand, have been known to be uncompromising in their negotiations – both with the Panthers and, given the size of the contract he received, with the Canucks. I doubt that Gillis (whose managerial motto seems to be ‘ Hometown Discount!’), willingly offered up that contract.

          So given the above, I am far more inclined to believe that Roberto wanted out – and out to 2 teams only (so family reasons make sense here) – than that Gillis decided to replace a still stellar goalie 2 years into a 12 year contract.

          Just a different perspective on the situation – we’ll likely never know the full story.

          Anyhoo, provided the kid pans out, I feel that ‘Luongo + Horvat’ >> ‘Schneider & No 9th overall pick’!

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      • PB
        August 26, 2013

        You’ve mentioned the three game playoff thing but that isn’t accurate. Luongo was clearly supplanted by Schneider as the starting goaltender, in AV’s eyes, in Gillis’ in the team’s, and likely when they resigned Schneider to his own deal. Luongo never forced this trade; he accepted what looked like the writing on the wall. Luongo has a lot of flaws but his professionalism last year won back a lot of respect for him.

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        • Pavo
          August 26, 2013

          PB – or the Canucks could have been showcasing Cory for an off-season trade, ‘a la Cody Hodgson’.

          But, as I said to Daniel, we’ll likely never know the full story.

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          • PB
            August 26, 2013

            Yes, I think that was the case — I think Gillis even said as much, that they were going to start playing Schneider more to spell Luongo for the playoffs and to increase his trade value. Before he turned into the awesome goalie he is we might have been pretty happy trading a low first rounder for a top ten pick almost ten years later but of course Schneider has ended up being one of the better goalies in the league. I think he still has a long way to go to show the consistency over the same number of games of a Luongo but I think he will show it (not this year, he’ll split with Brodeur). Yes he’ll only really take a full starting job at age 29 but with goalies you can get a lot of mileage still.

            I just don’t think, coming back to your original comment, that it was about Luongo calling for a trade. The most he ever did was show acceptance/resignation of the team moving in a different direction. That’s a lot different than asking for/forcing a trade.

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  10. Chris the Curmudgeon
    August 26, 2013

    So many people seem to think Luongo’s gone after this upcoming season. Not gonna happen guys, he’s going to be the Canucks goalie for the foreseeable future, whether or not he or the fans or the management likes it. Once he gets over the emotional angle of it, he’ll be fine and personally I think it’s time everyone just stopped worrying about a pro hockey player’s feelings so much. He’s a good goalie, he’s well paid and he’ll always have his own legacy to play for, and that should be enough for everyone. Luongo wants to win another gold medal, sure, but he also wants a Cup and a Vezina. He’s not going to put forcing a trade ahead of getting those things.

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