That’s because it was about more than the game. It was about friendship. It was about class, unselfishness and putting ego aside. It was about maturity, and mutual admiration. And it was about the team, above all else.
In the motivational speech Luongo would absorb through his headphones while meditating on those long playoff gameday strolls along the seawall, there is this line: “I will believe where all those before me have doubted. I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honour and respect of my team.”
He’s done just that.
Luongo wasn’t sombre. But he was resigned, ready to put the team first and prepared to cede one of the most difficult jobs in hockey to his ally, friend and former understudy Cory Schneider. His words could not have been easy. Much like sitting on the bench for the last three games of the playoffs. Luongo said he would waive his no-trade, if it was what GM Mike Gillis felt was best.
This, you have to understand, was his team he was talking about leaving. He was the captain of the Cancuks, the goalie and a leader. The Canucks also promise to be his best shot at the one trophy which has eluded him, the Stanley Cup. And despite all the scrutiny and criticism, he loves playing here. He said that again Tuesday.
What happened this past season is just not going to cut it anymore. Schneider wants to start. He needs to start. And he said it in the strongest, most direct comments of his career. “I’m not sure what else I can do,” Schneider said. “How many more 30-game seasons can you play and still wonder if you’re ready? I don’t think anyone should just be given the starter’s role. You have to earn it.
“But I at least deserve a look. At least get a chance to play some games in a row and take that mantle.
“It’s just the mentality I have … I feel I deserve a look and an opportunity to play more than 30 games.
“I haven’t thought about what’s best for me in a long time. I don’t know if it’s time to start doing that.”
Schneider has earned it now, and you can appreciate it if he’s feeling a little urgency in his career. He’s getting to an age where he should be playing in his prime.
“I’m not a young prospect anymore. I’m 26 years old,” Schneider said. “If I can have 10-year career from here on out, that would be amazing. It’s not as if I have an endless amount of years to do something. It’s either going to happen or it’s not. “I’d love to start somewhere. It’d be great to get an opportunity. I don’t know where it would be.”
Kevin Bieksa said the Luongo questions he was asked made it feel like a eulogy. More like a good-bye to an old friend, and teammate whose career in Vancouver will be increasingly appreciated the longer he is gone.
Leaving, Luongo revealed two closely guarded secrets on Tuesday. One, his injury in November was strained rib cartiladge. Two, on those seawall walks he would listen to Eminem’s Believe and a speech on YouTube titled “I am a Champion.”
It’s hard not to hope he gets to say those four words one day.
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