As we covered earlier today, James Duthie of TSN got the first interview with Roberto Luongo as he gets himself out into the press before the start of the Canadian Olympic Camp in Calgary this week. The interview took place at Luongo’s home in Florida and covered a variety of topics in two parts.
A third part airs tomorrow. The first two parts are on TSN’s video player, but we’ve taken the liberty of transcribing the interview below. *UPDATE* this post now includes the third part.
Roberto, what has the last year been like for you?
Heh. Where do I begin?
The most pressing question is are you going to show up to Canucks camp motivated to be the starting goalie for that team?
Yeah, no doubt. I have a contract, I plan to honour it, I think 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.
When you say you’re going to honour your contract, that doesn’t sound like a guy that’s happy with the situation.
Things have happened over the last little while that… I’d moved on. I’d moved on from Vancouver and I was ready to start a fresh new chapter of my career somewhere else.
Did it feel like a divorce, in that you were already divorced from the Canucks?
Well I used that analogy all the time. That’s what it felt like and I accepted it. I had moved on, personally. I mean, the only problem is that she didn’t, and she wanted me back.
Let’s go back to draft day, June 30th. Gary Bettman steps to the podium. [clip of Bettman announcing the Cory Schneider trade] How did you find out about the trade?
Francesco Aquilini, the owner of the team, called me in the morning and asked… he was in Florida and asked if he could come visit me and uh, I was like “yeah, no problem”. I thought he just wanted to talk to me about my future and stuff like that and he showed up about three or four picks into the draft so he sits on the couch and he asks me to turn the TV off because I was watching the draft. So I said “oh, okay” and all of a sudden he tells me that Schneider’s been traded. As he says this, my phone starts blowing up, it was like perfect timing. It was kind of forward, to be honest with you. Out of all the situations that I’d envisioned that possibly would have been happening to me, that wasn’t really one of them.
So what did you say to him?
Uh… I don’t remember. I just kind of blacked out after that.
Were you angry, were you upset?
I wasn’t angry, I was just shocked really. You know, I was just trying to figure out the reasons, you know, why a decision like that would be made especially without consulting me. I mean, that’s a pretty big move to make without having input from the guy you’re going to put your trust in.
How was it the minutes and hours after that coming to grips with the fact it was Schneids that was gone and you were back to being a starting goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks?
Well, you know I’m still working on that part, so, you know…
You still not quite there yet?
Well, you know, I’m there. I’m ready to go. I’ve turned the corner, and I’ve made a lot of good steps.
It almost sounds like you’re talking like you were in rehab. “I’ve made some progress, I’m getting there…”
Well, I might need some.
When this all started 14 months ago, I know that playing in Florida was your preference. Your wife Gina, her family are from here it’s where we’re doing this interview right now. Did you turn down a trade to Toronto or someplace else in those early days?
I never turned down a trade. What happened was a couple… one or two days before last year’s draft, Mike just told me that there was two or three teams were interested. He just said “interested”, he never said “I have a trade for this team or this team” and all I said was “Mike, if you can, if you could do something with either Florida or Tampa, I would appreciate that, and if it doesn’t work out we can move on.”
So I think that was the gist of it. I never turned down a trade…
No actual trade was brought?
There was never an actual trade on the table that I turned down. And that was the real story, unfortunately, there’s been a million other stories since then and sometimes you don’t want to get involved in that kind of stuff, but just to set the record straight, that’s what really happened.
Draft Day was not the first time you thought you might be traded shortly. Take us back to trade deadline day.
Ten minutes before the deadline was over, I get yanked off the ice, and they tell me to hurry up and get to Mike’s office, so I rush over there and as I’m entering the office, they hand me the paper to sign the no waiver, and I say “woah,” so it became real at that point that this was probably it. And I soon as I sat down in Mike’s office, he walked in and said that the deal fell through and there was no trade.
Did you get emotional?
Yeah I did. Not because I was angry, or whatnot, but I think of the range of the emotion and leading up to that day and in the last hour or two and uh, thinking you were traded one second and realizing you were not and it just got to me for a second there. And uh, I might have cried in front of another man.
When you met with media after, you said three very telling words [clip of Luongo saying “my contract sucks”] there was certainly some that said “how can somebody that makes that kind of money stand up there and say ‘my contract sucks?'” Do you regret it at all?
I don’t regret it, I meant what I said. I kind of still feel that way. You know I’m very grateful for the life that I have and doing something that I love and getting that, you know, paid well to do it. There’s no doubt about that.
Did you look into actually voiding your contract at the end of the season when trade talks were going nowhere? Did you contemplate that and look into it?
I explored every possibility and that was definitely one of them. Um… you know when at that point there’s different logistics to something like that and it’s very complicated but it was definitely something that I was looking at and ready to do if the opportunity came up.
So you were ready to walk away from $35-million?
Yeah I was ready to walk away and sign somewhere else for a lesser term for less money.
So now what? Do you still want to be traded?
You know, I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road, but 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.
We had some fun this year with you and Cory Schneider, and the battle to be No. 1. Did you ever think it would end like that?
We spoken a few times, draft day… a bunch of other times after that, mostly through texts. Yeah… I mean I think he was probably as shocked as I was. I kind of feel bad for him, because he deserves to be a starter and he’s going to have to wait now with Marty there.
Isn’t that the craziest thing about this? The fact that neither of you guys got what you wanted?
It kind of is crazy, but in a way I’m kind of lucky because I get to start, and play, which is all you can ask for at this point. With Marty there obviously he’s going to have to share the net, which kind of sucks for a guy like Schneids that’s ready to be a superstar in this league.
Roberto, let’s talk about your alter ego. What or who is a Strombone One?
Uh… I need a cut for a second?
No cutting here. There’s no off the record.
Well I can’t tell you. I can’t say it on camera.
Is it dirty?
Yes. Honestly, we’d have to cut no seriously… if you want me to tell you what it is, we have to cut.
<Feed cuts> It was a good idea to cut the camera. We’ll just move on. Your avatar is just this mysterious goalie with a question mark, but we all know it’s you, right?
Oh come on, we all know it’s you, right?
Oh, you know, probably, I don’t know.
Just officially admit it. You’ve danced around it forever.
Well I just want to leave the question mark up there, is that okay? Because it’s my symbol.
Well people thought it was about what team you were going to play for.
Yeah, it’s not. I never put that to symbolize what team I was going to play for. It was always like “is it the goalie, or not?” That’s what it’s there for.
Let’s go through some of the moments. The Schneider trade, you told us how incredibly emotional that was, when you found out Schneider’s been traded and not you, and yet hours later you tweet #NOtradeclause. As in, “I can’t get traded!” right?
If ever there was a tweet that was a forced, I think that one was forced a little bit. It wasn’t really…
Your best material?
No, it was great. I thought it was a great tweet, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be sending a tweet at that moment I think.
Back in the spring after the season was over, when you’re really antsy about getting traded, you tweet, all caps: “I’M WILLING TO STAY, BE THE BACK UP AND PLAY FOR FREE IF THEY LET ME SIT IN AT EVERY TORTS PRESSER! #MAN #MYTH #LEGEND”
Well did you guys not watch 24/7? It’s pretty awesome when… I was serious. I was serious, because uh… I just find that hilarious watching all the pressers especially when they bunch them all up together on Youtube and you can watch three or four minute segments and this will… Torts is not going to see this is he?
Here’s the confusing part. You told us what an emotional year this was, how tough it was on you, and at the same time all this stuff is happening, you’re cracking all these jokes on Twitter. So… does that mean you have some sort of split personality?
I don’t know, does it? I mean it has been a tough year emotionally, but at the same time there are a lot of things in life that are far worse than that, and I try to… that’s the way I kind of deal with my situations. I try to make light of it, make fun of it, it helps me handle it better.
So will the alter ego of @Strombone1, Roberto Luongo, be the starting goalie for Canada when they open the Olympics, February 13th against Norway?
Is that a trick question?
Well yeah. I’d love to. That’s one of my main goals for this year. I remember four years ago what a great moment that was in all of Canada so if I get a chance, I’d love the opportunity again to represent my country, no doubt.
Only one of the last ten FIrst or Second Team NHL All-Stars has been a Canadian goaltender. The Canadian Hockey League is banning European goaltenders. What’s wrong with Canadian goaltending?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, I think other countries have caught up to us and are right there battling with us, so there’s a lot of goalie coaches overseas now, working on goalies all the time, and it shows. It shows a lot in their game and a lot of talent coming from overseas because they work so hard on their game as well and it’s like the Canadians do, it’s like what we’ve done for so many years and maybe we were ahead of the curb and now probably other countries have caught up to us.
Well last time you won a gold medal, you wrote a wonderful, touching poem about it. Might we have to do a sequel to that if things go well in Sochi?
For sure, anytime.
- What’s more telling about the interview is the topics not covered. Part Three was advertised as covering Luongo’s online presence as well as his relationship with Cory Schneider, but we didn’t get to hear about certain things like his relationship with Mike Gillis or perhaps why he fired Gilles Lupien earlier this summer.
- Depending on whether you hold a media credential for the Canucks or for the Maple Leafs, you have a differing viewpoint on how Deadline Day 2013 took place. I think Gillis was in the same situation as Luongo, and never had a chance to say “yes” on a deal that he regrets not taking in retrospect.
- Luongo’s a fierce competitor and a great goaltender, and he probably still has multiple good years left in him. I doubt he was really willing to walk away from the remainder on his contract, but it would be interesting to hear what eventually held him back from making a step like holding out from camp.
- The way the Canucks jerked him around on Deadline Day and Draft Day are not ideal. I don’t really see any way that they could have done it better, but the image of Luongo ready to sign the no-trade waiver and having Gillis coming in and saying “no deal” isn’t pleasant. Perhaps they could have asked Luongo before they wound up making the Schneider-for-a-pick trade for his input, or softened the blow, but ultimately the organization had to tell him about a decision, and the team owner showing up at his house is, well, just so movie-like.
- As a Canucks blogger based in Vancouver, I’m happy Luongo will be back.