SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – One of the best hockey players to ever suit up for the Florida Panthers is calling it a career.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo announced on Wednesday that he was retiring from the NHL after an extremely successful 19 years in the league.
Luongo, who turned 40 in April, owns several Panthers franchise records for goaltending, including games played (572), wins (230), and shutouts (38).
“Roberto is a beloved player in our franchise’s history and someone I respect a great deal,” said Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon. “I know this was a decision that weighed heavily on him and we respected his time in making this announcement.”
That announcement came in typical Luongo fashion, with a humorous tweet making light of a heavy situation.
Luongo was originally brought to Florida on June 24th, 2000 in a trade with the New York Islanders, playing for the Panthers from 2000 to 2006.
He returned to Florida in early 2014 thanks to a trade deadline deal with Vancouver. Even while he was playing about as far away from South Florida as you can get, Luongo continued to live in Parkland during the offseason and trained here in the summer.
“When we brought Roberto back home to South Florida in 2014, it was a turning point moment for our franchise,” said Tallon. “The impact that he has had on the developing core of our team, its culture and our community are undeniable.”
Luongo opened up to fans in an open letter posted on NHL.com, saying retirement was “one of the toughest decisions I’ve faced in my life.”
“I love the game so much, but the commitment I required to prepare, to keep my body ready, has become overwhelming,” Luongo wrote in the letter. “Since I had my hip surgery a couple of years ago, I’ve been showing up two hours before every practice and three hours before every game to work out my hip. Even at night, whether it was the night before a game or even a night off, there I was rolling out, doing strengthening exercises. My entire life revolved around recovery, strengthening and making sure I was ready to go the next day.
“I was willing to make that sacrifice because I love the game, I love being part of it, being in the action and competing with my teammates. I was willing to go through it all for my love of hockey.”
Luongo went on to say that he plans on remaining in Parkland with his family “for the rest of our time on this earth.”
Only one goalie in NHL history played in more than Luongo’s 1,044 games, and that’s Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur.
Luongo also ranks third in all-time NHL wins with 489, as well as ninth in shutouts with 77.
A consummate professional, Luongo gave his all in everything he did on and off the ice, but was still able to make light of situations and have a good time with teammates and fans.
“He has always approached everything with a determination and level of class that was second to none,” said Tallon. “He leaves not only a legacy in South Florida, but a legacy in the game itself. I have no doubt that ‘Lu’ will one day be a Hockey Hall of Famer and deservingly so.”