Dec 25, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT
It captivated fans of professional hockey for months — in fact, longer than an entire year.
The Vancouver Canucks goaltending saga that began in April of 2012 — when Cory Schneider was put into the starting role ahead of Roberto Luongo — came to a dramatic end, well, once the 2013-14 regular season got underway in October.
The controversy itself, though, ended at the 2013 NHL Draft, when the Canucks dealt Schneider to the New Jersey Devils in return for the ninth overall pick, which turned into Bo Horvat.
The day before the draft, news broke that Schneider, a former first-round pick of the Canucks back in 2004, was indeed available on the trade market.
For the better part of a year, rumors swirled that Luongo, tied into a 12-year, $64 million contract, was going to be traded. He was not.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis had exhausted all attempts to move Luongo, who had a no-trade clause in his contract. On trade deadline day in April, Luongo was suddenly taken off the ice in the waning minutes of practice to Gillis’ office inside Rogers Arena to waive his no-trade clause.
Speculation was rampant, but no deal was ever completed.
It led Luongo to give an emotionally charged press conference later in the afternoon in which he uttered the now famous phrase, “my contract sucks.”
Gillis tried to throw water on Luongo’s comments after, when he met with the inquiring minds.
“When you have a day like this where your whole life could be turned upside down, then you speak to you guys (media) right after, I think there’s an opportunity for things to be said that in the clear light of day might not be reflective of how he really feels,” Gillis told reporters.
At the end of Vancouver’s season, when the Canucks were swept out of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks in the opening round, Gillis said it was “unlikely” Luongo would be back with the team, as another off-season approached.
Luongo is back, although he did leave Sunday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets with a lower-body injury and is currently listed as day-to-day.
But it took a considerable effort from Gillis and even new head coach John Tortorella to prompt Luongo to come back to Vancouver, a city he thought he would no longer be calling home.
“We have a really good relationship. It isn’t strained or adversarial at all. I think he’s going to be fine. He’s a consummate professional,” said Gillis over the summer. “Roberto will be our No. 1 goalie. I feel very optimistic about it.”
Luongo did finally make his decision. He announced it in a televised interview with James Duthie of the NHL on TSN panel just prior to Canada’s Olympic orientation camp in Calgary.
“I … moved on personally,” Luongo said during the interview.
The 34-year-old Luongo currently has a record of 16-9-6, a goals-against average of 2.24 and a save percentage of .920. If healthy, he’s also in the running for Canada’s 2014 men’s Olympic ice hockey team.
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