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Top 100 Goalies: No. 29 — Roberto Luongo

A funny thing happened for @Strombone on his way to the top shelf of the all-time wins list.

Martin Brodeur. Patrick Roy. Roberto Luongo. That’s what the top of the NHL’s all-time wins list will look when Luongo passes Ed Belfour for the No. 3 perch, almost certainly in 2018-19. Luongo doesn’t have a Vezina Trophy or Stanley Cup or Conn Smythe, but he’s been eminently consistent for two decades.

And yet, he’s not so sure he’ll be remembered for what he did on the ice. “I get called Strombone more than Roberto nowadays,” he said. “It’s funny how things worked out.”

Who is Strombone, more accurately known as @strombone1? That exact question built the Twitter account’s mystique when it appeared on the hockey scene in July 2011. Few noticed it at first, but Vancouver Canucks fans started to realize that Strombone followed and was followed by players on the team.

As Luongo remembers it, Ryan Kesler essentially outed him with a cryptic tweet. Word spread that @strombone1 was Luongo, and fans followed the account in droves. But they didn’t just do so because he was ‘NHL Hockey Goalie Roberto Luongo.’ The account was actually good. It was funny and full of self-deprecating references to Luongo’s own career, such as when, after allowing eight goals in a February 2013 loss, he quipped, “I just want to apologize to everyone who had to replace their Budweiser red light bulb after yesterday’s debacle.”

Strombone now counts more than 800,000 followers, and Luongo is the unquestioned king of Hockey Twitter among the players. “I just wanted to keep it a little bit different, a little bit light, and to show more of my personality that sometimes is hard to bring out in front of the cameras,” Luongo said. “Because when you’re in front of the cameras, you want to keep it politically correct and don’t stray too far away from the hockey terms everybody uses.”

It’s an ironic statement given Luongo has a reputation as one of the only players in his cliche-spouting generation who regularly speaks his mind. His easygoing, engaging personality also contradicts the stereotype of the socially aloof goaltender.

Luongo is the anti-Tom Barrasso and, because of that, bears the burden of being counted on to talk and say interesting things to the media more than any other goalie. It stressed him out early in his career but not anymore. “Getting older and maturing and understanding how things work, I’ve gotten to the point where I accept and embrace it more now,” he said. “It makes me as a person more relaxed and not as uptight, knowing that kind of stuff is part of the job. It’s part of the description to do these things on a daily basis and not to resist it.”

That mindset was a big reason why, in 2008, the Canucks made him the first goalie to captain a team in 60 years, though Luongo’s status was unofficial and represented by a ‘C’ painted on his mask. The Canucks eventually transferred official captaincy status to Henrik Sedin, but Luongo loved the honor when he had it and said he’d do it again in a heartbeat.

There’s no question Luongo deserves a spot among the top 100 all-time goalies on the strength of his play. He was a prodigy, drafted by the New York Islanders fourth overall in 1997, the highest ever for a goalie at the time, but GM Mike Milbury shipped him to the Florida Panthers three years later in a famously awful trade.

Carrying some mediocre Panther teams, Luongo faced the third- and fourth-most shots in a season by any goalie in NHL history in 2005-06 and 2003-04. Only Gump Worsley (twice) has seen more rubber in a single year. Luongo thrived on getting lots of action. He also loved being at the heart of a deep playoff run to Game 7 of the 2011 Cup final as a Canuck, as much as the defeat hurts to this day, and he was thrilled to become a Panther again in 2014. He’s finished top-five in Vezina voting five times, too.

You get the idea: Luongo is really good, enough that he’ll earn a Hall of Fame induction someday. But the lasting legacy he’ll leave on the game will exist not in the blue paint, but on social media. That’s where Luongo beats Brodeur or Roy or Terry Sawchuk. That’s the space where Luongo is the best ever. “I was just trying to show people who I was when I’m just hanging out with the guys or at home,” he said. “I’m not always in business attire, as they say. I’m glad people took to it and enjoy it. Hopefully it’ll be like this for a long time, and people can just remember me by social media even when my days of playing are long gone.”

Born: April 4, 1979, Montreal, Que.
NHL Career: 1999-present
Teams: NYI, Fla, Van
Stats: 471-376-119, 2.50 GAA, .919 SP, 76 SO
All-Star: 2 (Second-2)

DID YOU KNOW?

Luongo was inspired to become a goalie by another member of our top 100: Edmonton legend Grant Fuhr. Luongo idolized him as a kid, particularly because of his dramatic, acrobatic glove saves. Luongo would try to replicate them at home over and over again. Sometimes that meant a friend shooting on him. If Luongo had no company, he’d throw a ball against the wall himself and attempt save after save.

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