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When Henrik and Daniel Sedins’ numbers were retired earlier this month, netminder Roberto Luongo was asked about the memories of his Vancouver 2010 Olympics gold-medal victory — and didn’t pass up a chance to first take a fun shot at a former teammate.
“There’s a lot to remember, but definitely not Kes’s goal,” he said, drawing laughs from the reporters gathered around him.
Luongo and Team Canada knocked off Ryan Kesler and Team USA 3-2 in overtime in the men’s hockey gold-medal game, 10 years ago today, on the final day of the Winter Games.
The former centre didn’t hear the quip live, but moments later when the jest was circulated he laughed.
“Yeah, good memory,” he said with a smile. “But only one!”
Luongo’s most vivid memory of Vancouver 2010 was Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal. The former Vancouver Canucks’ netminder was at the far end of the ice, guarding Canada’s goal in the tense overtime.
The sequence that led to the winning tally, which launched one of the biggest mass celebrations in Vancouver’s sporting history, was a “nothing play” as Luongo recalled.
“The goal in overtime is what stands out the most, but you know just the whole game (stood out) too. The emotions and then (the U.S.) tying it up late and just the drama of it all and the way it ended,” he said.
“It kind of caught everybody by surprise a little bit, how quick Sid got it off so quick off his stick. I just remember looking at the sky and having my arms up from my net all the way to the pile in the other corner.”
Given that his team was on the losing end of the gold-medal classic that Sunday afternoon at “Canada Hockey Place,” Kesler’s thoughts went immediately to the totality of the two-week event.
“We had a great time,” Kesler said. “Honestly. I had 30 family members. My house was set up … I think I bought like eight air mattresses and we set them up around the house. Imagine that, it was amazing.
“The city, the restaurants, all took care of us. To be able to have it where not just me and my immediate family, but aunts and uncles, they all could come in and experience the Olympics. We fell short (on the ice) but it was, for those two weeks, a real blast.”
Playing in that tense final was tough physically and emotionally for Luongo. His Canucks were on a two-week road trip just before the Games.
And when the hockey tournament got underway in Vancouver, he wasn’t the anointed No. 1 goalie. He played in the opening game, an 8-0 rout of Norway, but Martin Brodeur started the remaining two round-robin games, a 3-2 shootout defeat of Switzerland, followed by an ugly 5-3 loss to Kesler and the U.S.
Luongo and Kesler were two of seven Canucks to play for their national teams in Vancouver. The late Pavol Demitra suited up for Slovakia, Sami Salo skated with Finland, Christian Ehrhoff played for Germany, and the Sedin twins joined Sweden.
“I think we (Canucks) were in Buffalo during the opening ceremony in Vancouver,” Luongo said. “So we weren’t here but once we were, it was a great time. The city was nothing like I’ve ever seen before.
“It was so much fun and obviously there was high intensity and high pressure, but even though I remember being really nervous, I remember really enjoying it and having fun. I was so happy that it was in Vancouver and in Canada, and in the city where I played.
“It was really a perfect storm for me that everything came together and that I ended up being the starter halfway through and the whole thing.”
Luongo was selected by coach Mike Babcock to start in the qualification-round playoff game, backstopping Canada to an 8-2 win over Germany. He never left the crease again as the Canadians defeated the Russians 7-3 in the quarter-finals, then Demitra and Slovakia 3-2 in the semifinals.
While winning gold was electric, it doesn’t compare to how close Luongo and his teammates came to winning the Canucks first Stanley Cup one year later.
“Obviously it’s ‘you win some you lose some,'” he said of the idea of the two championship efforts.
“Obviously that’s something that always hurt us a little bit, but there was also some great moments in that run and I like to think of those moments a little bit more than the rest. There’s Burr’s (Alex Burrows) goal against the Blackhawks … Juice’s (Kevin Bieksa’s) goal against San Jose.
“There’s a lot of great moments in the home game against Boston in the Final. There’s always definitely more good moments than bad but, at end of the day we didn’t get the job done and that’s just going to sting a little bit.”
The Olympic gold was great, but Luongo admitted it didn’t make up for missing out on his Stanley Cup dream.
“Not really, no. You want to win a Cup. I never had a chance to hoist that as a player, so hopefully I’ll get a chance (working for an NHL team) to get up there, my name on it one day somehow, some other way.”
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