After 19 seasons in the NHL and more wins than all but two goalies in league history, Roberto Luongo has called it a career, announcing Wednesday that he has retired.
Luongo said as recently as December 2018 he intended to play out the 12-year, $64 million contract he originally signed with the Vancouver Canucks in 2009 -- a deal that would've kept him on the ice for another three seasons. But speculation mounted as his latest Panthers season came to a close that the former fourth overall draft pick could be nearing the end, and Luongo confirmed in an open letter to fans Wednesday that he just recently realized it was "the right time" to hang up the skates.
"This is one of the toughest decisions I've faced in my life, and it took me a long time to make it," Luongo wrote. "After thinking about it a lot over the past two months and listening to my body, I made up my mind ... I love the game so much, but the commitment I required to prepare, to keep my body ready, has become overwhelming."
The six-time All-Star said a hip surgery from several years ago still affected his training regimen in 2018-19, a season in which he "wasn't happy with [his] performance." Further reflection, he added, revealed he "wasn't excited" about returning to the ice "for the first time in my career," as his "entire life revolved around recovery, strengthening and making sure I was ready to go the next day."
Luongo has played fewer than 45 games in five of his last eight seasons, appearing in 43 with an 18-16-5 record and .889 save percentage, the lowest of his NHL career, in 2018-19. But the two-time Olympic gold medalist is likely bound for the Hockey Hall of Fame thanks to all he accomplished even before returning to Florida for a second stint with the Panthers in 2014. His 489 career victories from more than 1,000 career games rank third all time, behind only Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.
A first-round pick of the New York Islanders in 1997, he spent one season in the Big Apple before a five-year run with the Panthers. Luongo then moved on to Vancouver where he posted a career-best 47 wins -- and team-record .921 save percentage during his first season with the Canucks in 2006-07. Luongo is also known for his international success representing Canada, claiming two World Championship gold medals, two Winter Olympics gold medals and a 2004 World Cup victory.