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THE MOJ: Luongo doesn’t bleed Canuck enough for number retirement

Heck of a player, but asking to be traded takes him out of consideration for team’s highest honour
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Former Vancouver Canucks Henrik Sedin, left, of Sweden, goalie Roberto Luongo, centre, and Daniel Sedin, right, of Sweden, stand after being wrapped in First Nations blankets during a ceremony honouring their recent inductions into the Hockey Hall of Fame, before an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Thursday, December 1, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

It was supposed to be a ‘feel good’ story but instead it’s created a fire storm on social media.

The Vancouver Canucks announced earlier this week that Roberto Luongo is going to be recognized by the organization as part of the team’s ‘Ring of Honour’ when the Florida Panthers visit Rogers Arena on Dec. 14.

That announcement created an intense on-line debate between those who believe…

A – The Canucks insulted Luongo by not retiring his #1 jersey instead.

B – That Kirk McLean should be included in the #1 jersey retirement.

C – That McLean shouldn’t be a part of the #1 being retired.

D – That Luongo being named to the ‘Ring of Honour’ should suffice.

Yes, it maybe only late September but it’s clearly hockey season in Vancouver.

First off, you have to recognize Luongo’s outstanding career.

As a Canuck, Luongo ranks first in career wins (252), shutouts (38) and ranks second in games played (448), save percentage (.919) and goals against average (2.36). In 19 NHL seasons with the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and Canucks, his resume made him a first-ballot Hall of Famer last year. Luongo’s overall numbers are impressive as he ranks second all-time in games played (1,044), fourth in wins (489) and ninth in shutouts (77) and save percentage (.918).

Despite all those accomplishments, there is still a faction of Canuck nation that holds Luongo’s playoff performances against him. I don’t.

His career should warrant a jersey retirement but only as a Florida Panther - which that organization did on March 7, 2020 – but not as a Canuck.

It’s interesting how some fans are angered that the organization has retired the numbers of Markus Naslund (19) and Stan Smyl (12) but refuses to do so for a Hall of Fame player in Luongo.

Again, I don’t feel that way and with good reason.

When it comes to my criteria for retiring a number, it’s pretty simple.

The individual in question has to have a combination of an outstanding career with the organization and has to be identified with that organization.

And a dealbreaker for me is asking to be traded from the organization in question - which Luongo and Pavel Bure both did.

I’m sorry but if a team is going to hang a player’s number from the rafters for eternity that player better have bled the team’s colors and always thought of himself as a member of that organization. Luongo doesn’t meet the criteria.

Yes, the numbers warrant a jersey retirement but I just don’t understand how you can bestow the highest honour an organization can give to a former player to someone who didn’t want to be part of your team and asked for a trade.

For some, it’s clearly not an issue but for me it’s a major issue.

What makes me chuckle is those who say that the bar has been lowered by retiring the numbers belonging to Naslund and Smyl. More on that later.

But yet retiring the number of someone who asked to be traded from your organization isn’t lowering the bar?

C’mon man.

I understand that the Canucks have no criteria on record when it comes to the retiring of numbers, so to each his own but again I’m puzzled as to how you want someone in who wanted out.

As Canuck fans – and I consider myself one since the team joined the NHL in 1970 – we are extremely loyal. We have to be considering what this organization has made us endure over the course of the last 53 years.

Shouldn’t you demand that same loyalty from those former players whose numbers are to be retired?

OVERTIME

The people who mock the Canucks for retiring Smyl’s number should educate themselves about the former winger. Smyl may not have the stats that those people would like but the organization has never had a player who was more dedicated to the organization both on and off the ice.

As a player, Smyl gave it everything he had on teams where taking the night off was an option for many. Currently the team’s Vice President of Hockey Operations, Smyl has been with the team since 1978 and is in his 45th year with the organization. If there is one TRUE Canuck, it’s Smyl.

As for Bure, he’s the most exciting player to don a Canuck uniform but I stand by my belief in players who ask to be traded from an organization should not have their numbers retired by that organization.

When it comes to Naslund, some great years as a Canuck but what’s lacking for me are those iconic moments that you remember a player for. I can see the argument on both sides when it comes to his number being retired but if I were forced to make a decision, I’d probably say no.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

READ MORE: Vancouver Canucks honour newly minted Hall of Famers Luongo, Sedins

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