While most of us would switch places with a high-level professional athlete like Roberto Luongo in a heartbeat, it’s easy to ignore the drawbacks that come with that job. There are a lot of challenges – from physical pain to the pressure to win in a sport with a small margin of error – but one underrated task comes when players must address the media just moments after they win or lose.
Under normal circumstances, players are prepared to answer reporters’ questions with any number of cliches that pump up their opponents and how hard everyone worked. That being said, the beauty of post-game press conferences is that every now and then, a player lets his guard down and actually says something interesting (and maybe even inflammatory).
One of those moments came after the Vancouver Canucks beat the Boston Bruins 1-0 in Game 5 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, when Roberto Luongo critiqued Tim Thomas after the unorthodox goalie’s aggressiveness backfired for the game’s only goal. Luongo said he would have made the save on Maxim Lapierre’s goal (which happened after Kevin Bieksa bounced the puck off the boards on purpose to take advantage of Thomas’ aggressiveness) and also griped that Thomas hadn’t flattered Luongo during the series. Thomas responded by joking that it wasn’t his job to pump Luongo’s tires.
Those comments looked bad enough after that Game 5 win, but it seemed like a significant foot-in-mouth moment in retrospect. There was a stark contrast in the two goalies’ play in the last two games of the championship series; Thomas allowed two goals in Boston’s two wins while Luongo was pulled from Game 6 and allowed three goals in Vancouver’s Game 7 loss.
This must be a painful off-season for the oh-so-close Canucks, but Luongo received the greatest amount of blame for Vancouver’s crushing defeat. Canucks Army provides a translated interview that covers the goalie’s summer, including his regrets about making those comments about Thomas.
“I thought of the finals earlier in the summer, but now I think it’s a part of the past.” said Luongo. “I have good memories of last year, it was a very good season. But it sure hurts a little. I especially remember the last game in Vancouver. It’s hard to relive the final seconds of the seventh game in the Stanley Cup finals.”
“Fortunately, I spend my summers in Florida and it’s pretty quiet there,” said the 32 year old goaltender in consolation.
Does Luongo regret the statement [about Thomas]?
“Yeah, for sure. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t say it. I didn’t want to create the buzz that it did. After the fifth game, I had never been so emotional and I got carried away.”
Luongo received a lot of abuse for his statements and struggles during that seven-game series, with much of the wounds being self-inflicted. Even if he’s had his low moments, Luongo had a great regular season and his fair share of strong playoff performances. If he can keep the media and fan criticisms from getting to him, he has a great chance for another standout season in 2011-12.
Luongo might want to be a little more careful about what he says from now on, though.