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Expect a lengthy ovation for Luongo tonight in Vancouver

Panthers Luongo Hockey

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo smiles during a news conference Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Sunrise, Fla. After nearly eight years apart, Luongo was the centerpiece of a four-player trade between Florida and the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. The Panthers sent goalie Jacob Markstrom--once considered their future in net--and forward Shawn Matthias to the Canucks for Luongo and forward Steven Anthony. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Al Diaz) MAGS OUT


Watching his press conference Tuesday at Rogers Arena, it was hard to believe what they used to call Roberto Luongo.

Cocky. Arrogant. Entitled. Overly sensitive. Glib. Moody.

None of those words came to mind as he chatted amiably with reporters ahead of Thursday’s game between his current team, the Florida Panthers, and his old one, the Canucks.

He was asked if he was ever misunderstood during his time in Vancouver.

“I think earlier in my stay here, but that was a bit of my own fault as well,” he said. “The way I would handle certain things, whether it’s with the media or the fans.

“I kind of figured that whole thing out towards the end of my stay here. It’s kind of a shame that that’s the way it happened. Sometimes you have to go through some adversity to realize and understand and do the right things.

“My whole perspective on a lot of stuff has changed over the last couple of years, the way I handle things. I just try to have as much fun as I can out there, realizing that I’m 35 now, so I just want to have fun playing the game and play hard and do the best that I can.”

Twitter has helped Luongo immensely, providing a medium to show off a self-deprecating sense of humor that never came through, or maybe he hadn’t developed yet, before.

Not that he didn’t try to be funny. Except more often than not, his attempts at humor would fall flat. His delivery in front of the cameras would just be a People wouldn’t laugh; they’d bristle.

As they say, good comedy is all in the delivery.

Consider: Luongo said his biggest regret with the Canucks was never winning a Stanley Cup. In the four losses to Boston in the 2011 final, he allowed 20 goals. For that, combined with a couple of imprudent remarks he directed towards Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, he was mocked and vilified. At the time, for him, and for Vancouver hockey fans, there was nothing funny about it.

Yet fast forward a few years and this is the kind of thing he’s tweeting:

And the fans, by and large, have loved him for it.

To retell Luongo’s entire story in Vancouver would require multiple volumes, kind of like how Tolstoy broke up War and Peace. No other athlete in the city’s history -- not Pavel Bure, not Todd Bertuzzi -- has stirred so much debate. They still debate him today. They will for a while.

Tonight, the Canucks will honor Luongo with a video tribute. A lengthy ovation will follow. That, you can be sure of.

“I think it’s going to be emotional,” he said yesterday. “I’m flattered they’d do that. I told (the organization) it wasn’t necessary but I’m happy there’s some sort of recognition.

“I think it’s good for both sides.”