Sorry, Tony, but Roberto Luongo’s no diva.
He’s being asked the questions, and he’s answering. His silence was treated as dissent and his disappointment as disloyalty. It’s understandable, but perhaps a little hypocritical. (When you’re called a “diva” by your local paper, I wouldn’t want to talk to you, either.) Sure, he’s paid a lot of money. Sure, he’s a starting goaltender in the National Hockey League – which is something only a select few can confidently say right now – and he’s (probably) more than a shoo-in to at least be named to next year’s Canadian Olympic team, and for the third straight time.
But I will agree with Mr. Gallagher going forward. Today is August 29th. On September 1, it better stop.
Luongo’s interview with TSN’s James Duthie – the first formal one of the summer for the man who is now once again Vancouver’s top tender – was a contained media circus. It was a promoted viral jumble from The Sports Network, which just happened to have the luxury of having Duthie, who is either very close with Luongo or a liar, because all he does is talk about how he always talks to Roberto.
(He’s not a liar. I’m quite convinced of this.)
Duthie was there to tell us Luongo’s first words when Cory Schneider was traded. He was there on Trade Deadline Day and the last Draft Day, when the focus was squarely on Roberto and nobody else, until it was just a little on Cory Schneider and then – if you were paying attention – Martin Brodeur.
It’s been a long year for Luongo. Almost as long as it’s been for us, his fans.
Still, Luongo’s demotion from the No. 1 position led to natural misconceptions about his role on the Canucks. Namely, that it ever stopped.
He may just now be Vancouver’s starter again, but he never stopped being a Canuck. He played two playoff games last year – as many as Cory Schneider – and he, above anyone, should have seen that Draft Day conclusion coming.
He knew Schneider’s deal was easily movable. He knew other teams wanted Cory, almost as much as Vancouver wanted Cory. He knew he had guided the Canucks to a Stanley Cup Final and he knew he had won a gold medal on the home ice he’ll have to love once again.
So, when he told Duthie he divorced us and we wanted him back, I laughed. I think most people did. It was funny and open – honest – and I’ll argue we need more of that. I don’t want to neuter a truly funny and friendly guy like Luongo.
I think players deserve to be in control of their own fate, contractually.
Although they’re technically employees, I believe the Canucks and their now-embattled general manager Mike Gillis need to understand: it’s not just about Roberto honouring his contract. It’s about him playing well, too.
If he’s disheartened and dislodged from Vancouver, did we keep him at his peril… or ours?
That said, it’s over and the seasons’s coming. Luongo never left the Canucks. He was always here, and he’s not the first high-profile goaltender to be a backup. Tim Thomas fought through it. Carey Price, too. It happens.
Once the puck drops, this needs to stop.
I think Luongo knows that. And, I hope I’m right.