CALGARY - He may not be happy that he's still stuck in a Vancouver Canucks sweater, but goalie Roberto Luongo is pleased to be a No. 1 goalie again and in a heated competition to become Canada's starter at the Olympics.
"Yeah, I don't think it matters," said Luongo, when asked on the opening day of the Canadian Olympic team orientation camp if he's happy about going back to Vancouver. "I'm happy to be playing and being a starter, that's what matters for now, and that's what I'm focused on. At the end of the day, that's all you really need, right?"
The 34-year-old Luongo is one of five goalies invited to the camp, along with Carey Price, Mike Smith, Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford.
After a tumultuous time in Vancouver, in which Cory Schneider supplanted Luongo as the No. 1 goalie in the Canucks first-round series against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in 2012, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis never delivered on his promise to trade Luongo.
The way he handled the affair has made a Luongo fan out of Canadian Olympic team head coach Mike Babcock.
Winner with Canada
"What Lou has going for him is that he's won in the past," Babcock said. "I've been with him twice at world championships and in 2010 and he wins every time. So he's got that confidence in himself and he's been through a tumultuous time and I thought handled it with extreme class and professionalism.
"That's got to make him feel good about who he is, and I'm actually proud of him the way he's handled himself. He's been fantastic. But he's here like everyone else, you want to get off to a good start if you're a goaltender, you want to be feeling good."
Luongo was relayed Babcock's remarks.
"Yeah, I mean listen, you go through stuff throughout your life and your career, and you try to learn from them, you try to get stronger from them, and I think over the course of the last year I've been through a few things, and hopefully got some experience out of it, made me a better player, a better person," he said. "So, right now, I just want to play hockey, doesn't matter where it is. I'm happy to be starting again, and I want to focus on playing hockey and being ready.
It's not that I wanted out of Vancouver so bad. We all saw what happened, for the last few years, and I just felt it was time to move on. That's it."
In 2010, Luongo replaced Martin Brodeur as the No. 1 goalie of the Canadian Olympic team when the latter faltered against the United States in the round-robin. Luongo wound up being Canada's guy the rest of the way.
Now he has a chance to redeem himself in Vancouver and establish himself as one of the game's elite netminders.
"A bit of both, I think," Luongo said. "I was a backup last year, so you know, you start to wonder certain things, but I obviously knew the first half of this season was going to be really important, so that's what I kept telling myself in the back of my mind, and not to think too much about it, and that things will sort themselves out and I'd have another opportunity to re-establish myself.
"It's good to be talking hockey again. Unfortunately we're not going on the ice, but this is a good start, and at the end of the day, I just want to play hockey and focus on that and eliminate as many of the distractions as I can."
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