VANCOUVER – Roberto Luongo is sporting a C after all.
The Vancouver captain, forbidden by NHL rules from wearing the letter on his jersey because he is a goaltender, sported a new C on his mask Sunday night as the Canucks hosted Anaheim in the final 2008-09 pre-season game for both clubs.
“It can stand for whatever he wants it to stand for,” said Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis, when asked if the C stood for Canucks or captain.
The dark blue C is located on the bottom of Luongo’s mask in the area that protects his throat. It is clearly separate from the mask’s painted design and resembles the plain letter that a captain usually wears on a jersey.
The Canucks broke tradition Tuesday by naming Luongo as their new captain. He became the first goaltender in 61 seasons to receive the honour after Bill Durnan served as captain of the Montreal Canadiens in 1947-48.
Durnan’s penchant for leaving his crease to talk to officials prompted the league to create a rule that is still in effect today. It prohibits a goaltender from acting as a captain or alternate captain on the ice and wearing a C on his jersey.
More than half a century later, the NHL remains concerned that allowing a goaltender to perform traditional captain’s duties will give a team unscheduled timeouts. Luongo is not allowed to discuss calls with officials or participate in pre-game face-offs.
GM Gillis sought clarification of the rule from NHL executives before naming Luongo captain. The Canucks were left without a captain after Markus Naslund signed a free agent contract with the New York Rangers in the off-season.