MONTREAL – It was a long way from Vancouver, but Montreal’s St-Leonard district was watching the Canucks’ run for the Stanley Cup with an eagle eye, hoping one of their own would have a chance to taste sweet victory.
Those hopes for Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo, who grew up in the neighbourhood, were dashed Wednesday night as Vancouver lost the cup to the Boston Bruins, 4-0 in the seventh and deciding game.
Among those watching that dream slip away was Luongo’s youngest brother Fabio, stoically viewing the game as journalists trained cameras on him throughout, hoping to catch any hint of disappointment.
“I’m going to tell him no matter what happens we’re proud of him,” he said of the game.
“Obviously I’m disappointed but at the same time he made it this far. He had a great journey. One team had to win tonight and it was Boston. It happens.”
He added, “Hopefully he’ll get another shot at it in the future.”
Luongo’s parents weren’t at the restaurant. They were at home where his father tuned in to the game. His mother didn’t watch it.
“She’s too nervous,” said Fabio, 25. “They went out to Boston for Game 6 and decided to stay at home and watch the game in peace because they’re very nervous.”
Customers at Fabio’s restaurant were more exuberant with their emotions.
They shouted with glee when it looked like the Canucks were going somewhere and bellowed like they were wounded when the team stalled.
Arms waved in dismay when Boston notched their third goal in the second period and the air seemed to go out of the room as high hopes were deflated.
“We weren’t exactly expecting that,” said Vince Collaro, a Vancouver fan and Fabio’s business partner.
“You win some, you lose some but it wasn’t the right time to lose. We had it from the beginning, the whole season we won the whole time and now . . . It’s not a nice loss. There’s no words.”
As far as Roberto Luongo went, he said, “He did his best. We’ll leave it at that.”
What started out as an evening holding the promise of the return of the Stanley Cup to Canada gradually petered out as puck after puck was deflected off the Boston brick wall known as goalie Tim Thomas.
La Bella Italiana, an upscale restaurant on most nights, held a house full of diehard hockey fans Wednesday night as the Canucks tried to achieve their dream of a first ever Stanley Cup.
The evening started like any other—diners tucked into meals and chatted animatedly.
But as game time drew near, eyes began darting toward the several big-screen TVs in the restaurant.
Fabio Luongo tried to take it all in stride.
He said it was tough to see his brother take a drubbing in Game 6.
“You don’t want to see your brother in that situation but at the same time, he’s through it many times this year and he’s bounced back,” he said.
The younger Luongo, who remembered playing hockey with his brother in the basement of the family home and in the streets growing up, said he had texted his brother earlier in the day and told him to relax and enjoy the moment when he took to the ice on Wednesday.
“He’s been playing hockey since he’s eight years old,” Fabio said recalling how some of the childhood games they’d played involved Stanley Cup championships. “It’s funny to see your brother be in this type of situation after so many years of talking about it.”
But the tension seemed to mount as the game got underway.
At times through the nail-biter of a game, he leaned in and studied the plays, wincing at some, throwing his head back a few times as the Bruins went after his brother.
It didn’t get any easier with Boston’s first goal and the anguished roar that went up from the distraught crowd could be heard out onto the street.
St-Leonard is hockey territory in Montreal. Some of its residential streets are so narrow kids can block them off with goalie nets to play hockey.
It has spawned another player of renown besides Luongo, New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Both are Olympic gold medallists. Brodeur has hoisted the Stanley Cup three times.
The Luongos are revered in the community, even though they are open to a little good natured ribbing on Wednesday.
Gaetano Messina wore a Bruins jersey to the restaurant and laughed it off when it was suggested he had guts to do that here.
“He’s a friend of mine,” he said with a wave toward Fabio Luongo.
The lifelong Boston fan beamed at the result as the clock ran out, pointing to his shirt and giving a thumbs up to a photographer.
He said the Boston defence was too strong for Vancouver and added “it’s not his fault” when asked how he thought Luongo played.
“It’s all good, good game,” he said.
“Too bad for the Luongos but . . .,” Messina added with a shrug.