Roberto Luongo has one gold medal in his trophy case and the 34-year-old goaltender aims to add another as he joins two other netminders on Team Canada in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics. A feature on Luongo, as well as a profile of Montreal’s Carey Price are in today’s special goaltenders issue of the sports section in The Globe and Mail. The following is a condensed and edited interview with Roberto Luongo, conducted Jan. 25 at Rogers Arena after the Vancouver Canucks had concluded a practice.
You’re a big poker player and known for your study of other teams and scorers. Were you good at school and math when you were growing up?
“I was always pretty good with numbers. Very competitive. All that kind of stuff. Growing up, my parents always used to tell me I should be an accountant. That wasn’t my dream – but if hockey didn’t work out, it was probably going to be in that area.”
How much work do you put into studying the game?
“I watch hockey almost every night when I’m at home. I watch other games. I like the sport, you know? I like to watch it. It gives me the chance to study players, tendencies from teams, other goalies, all that stuff. It’s important. Especially when it comes to a situation like a shootout or anything like that, certain things that players like to do.”
How important was your work in the lockout with Francois Allaire? [Allaire, a goaltending coach in Colorado, has mentored Luongo since he was a teenager.]
“I always try to put in time with him. When I was earlier in my career, it was always one or two weeks in the summertime, and there was about 10 or 12 goalies on the ice. So this was really one-on-one, every day for eight weeks. We really got to individualize the drills and all that kind of stuff, so that’s what made it much more effective for me.”
How different would you say your game is from when you arrived in Vancouver back in 2006?
“Very different. You evolve, and the game evolves too. Every year there seems to be one or two new techniques that are brought to the game that sometimes you don’t pick up right away but you try to implement in your game when you get comfortable. You need it to try to stay on top.”
How challenging is it to change your game?
“It’s always challenging, when you’re doing something you’re not comfortable doing. It’s just the nature of the human body. It takes a lot of repetition. That’s the only thing that can make it successful, tons of repetition in practice, and it just becomes natural. You can’t really start using it in a game until you do it without thinking about it.”
On the personal side, people who know you know your irreverent sense of humour. Has it been freeing to be yourself on Twitter?“I like it because it’s a public place but you’re still guarded by a computer screen or a phone or whatever it is. You can’t get mobbed by people. Sometimes that gets a little overwhelming for me, so it’s a fun way for me to interact with people and let them see my personality without really having to put myself in a situation where it gets uncomfortable.”
It’s your third Olympics, and it’s only you and Rick Nash on the team for a third time. What’s your reflection on heading to the games again?
“It’s always an honour. The Olympics is unique and special, it comes every four years. Who knows if there will be NHL players involved in another Olympics. I’m 34 so I’m not getting any younger. In reality, this is probably my last one, so I just want to go out there and really enjoy it. And not just play hockey, the whole experience, being in the village with other athletes, and sharing in Olympics stuff that is unique.”
Do you stop and take satisfaction being on Team Canada when a year ago you were a backup on your own team?
“I don’t know. It’s not really about being on Team Canada. It’s just about re-establishing myself. I wanted to show everybody that I can still be one of the best in the league. That’s what it’s all about for me. Obviously, there were circumstances that were out of my control a little bit over the last couple years. I tried to make the best of it. I knew I still had a game in me. That’s what mattered.”
Looking back at the last Olympics, no one seems to really remember the save you made on Joe Pavelski right before the Crosby goal. But, in general, how hard was it for you and the team to shake off the late tying goal by Zach Parise and get composed for the overtime?
“It was good that we were able to come back into the locker room for the intermission. We were all a little bit shell-shocked from them tying it up so late in such a big game. It really gave myself and all the other guys a chance to regroup and just realize what moment we were in. It was overtime of a gold-medal game in the Olympics. Once we were able to get over that [the tying goal] and realize that this was probably the biggest moment of our careers, it was easy to get by it.”