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Roberto Luongo is the new captain of the Vancouver Canucks. ((Nick Didlick/Getty Images))

The Vancouver Canucks named goaltender Roberto Luongo as their captain on Tuesday.

The Canucks also named three alternate captains: Ryan Kesler, Mattias Ohlund and Willie Mitchell.

NHL rules prevent Luongo from wearing the "C" on his jersey because he's a goalie, but the club is permitted to designate the netminder as their captain.

Coach Alain Vigneault said Luongo's leadership abilities make him the obvious choice to become the 12th captain in Canuck history.

"In our mind, for this organization, this is the right thing to do," said Vigneault. "Roberto is the right individual to be captain."

The last NHL goaltender who served as team captain prior to the rule taking effect was Bill Durnan of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1947-48 NHL season.

Luongo replaces Markus Naslund as captain. Naslund signed a free agent contract with the New York Rangers in the off-season.

Past Canuck captains include Mark Messier, Stan Smyl and Trevor Linden.

Mike Gillis, the rookie Canuck general manager who promised to bring new ideas to the job, said it would be unfair not to let Luongo be captain just because of the position he plays.

"Leaders lead by example," said Gillis. "Roberto is the leader of this team right now. We felt really strongly about that. To not do something like this means you have a leader that is unrecognized.

"We wanted to make sure he is recognized for his contribution both on and off the ice."

Luongo, 29, often was Vancouver's best player last year when the team missed the playoffs for the second time in three years. He said he was stunned when Vigneault first approached him with the idea in September.

"I didn't expect it when Alain came and asked," he said. "I was definitely surprised but at the same time I was happy and flattered."

Luongo said he isn't bothered he won't have a letter on his sweater.

"It really doesn't change anything for me," he said. "It's a matter of people knowing I'm captain. At the same time, I'm sure it involves a lot more stuff off the ice."

Last season, Luongo had a 35-29-9 record, a 2.38 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and six shutouts in 73 games. At times he seemed to resent the intense media scrutiny he received in a market where hockey is the No. 1 sport.

There also have been questions about how much longer Luongo will want to remain in Vancouver unless the Canucks become Stanley Cup contenders. He has two years left on a four-year, $27-million US contract.

Gillis denied naming Luongo captain was a way to convince him to remain in Vancouver.

"I think keeping Roberto here long-term is going to be based on our competitiveness, as it will be with most players," he said. "We must do everything possible to compete as well as we can."

With files from the Canadian Press