Roberto Luongo just wants to play hockey.
The 34-year-old starting goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks took to the ice with teammates at UBC Thunderbird Arena Friday morning for the first time this fall and after putting in a solid 60 minute skate alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Jason Garrison, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and roughly 20 others, he excitedly faced the media.
No seriously, as he tweeted yesterday, he was actually excited to speak to the media. It was the first step in Luongo moving past his turbulent off-season.
“Just when you think you've seen it all, there comes something else,” Luongo joked. “I don't know what the future holds, but right now I’m just focused on the season ahead.
“I've said all along I want to play. I want to take advantage of that. I want to win some games and see how far we can go and hopefully win a Stanley Cup. This is a big year for me, I've been sitting on the bench for a while and I want to show everyone what I can do. We all know it's an Olympic year I just want to make the best of it.”
If Luongo and the Canucks are to make the best of the upcoming 2013-14 campaign, they’ll have to adjust to the new coaching philosophy that John Tortorella brings to town from New York.
Luongo is ahead of his teammates in that regard, as he and Tortorella have spoken a few times and are on the same page heading into the start of Canucks training camp next week.
“Everything’s gone really well. He's going to bring a change to the dressing room; not that Alain was a bad coach or anything like that, but sometimes change is good. We will see what he brings hopefully it will spark the boys a little bit.”
Luongo was also in frequent contact with Canucks general manager Mike Gillis this summer, especially after Cory Schneider was dealt to the New Jersey Devils during the 2013 NHL Draft. That relationship, although strained at times over the years, is now on the up and up.
There is no rift between goalie and GM.
“Not at all,” said Luongo, matter-of-factly.
“Like Mike said when he came down to Florida, we chatted and there was no animosity there. I don't know if it was as rosy as he painted it, but we had a couple of laughs. They are just trying to do their job and I don't hold that against them at all. At the end of the day we are all just trying to be happy and do what is best for the team.”
The Luongo that took to the ice Friday and spoke post-practice was noticeably a happier one than the Luongo battling for the starting gig against Schneider last post-season; he’s overcome a lot of hurdles mentally to be back with the Canucks and is building a stronger relationship with Gillis, while creating a close relationship with Tortorella.
The response from fans, unfortunately, is out of his hands.
“To be honest with you I'm not sure how it's going to work out. There's always going to be people supporting and there's always going to be people that are not so supportive. It goes along with the territory and I've realized that over the course of the years - you can't please everybody. As long as you put the work in and give an effort every night, that's all you can ask for.
Roberto Luongo just wants to play hockey. He’ll get that chance real soon.
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