Just Call Him Luongo – Roberto Luongo
This post from February 11, 2007 was featured on the NHL.com homepage.
Did you know "Luongo" wears his goalie equipment when he eats dinner? And did you know "Luongo" sleeps with his RBK stick beside his bed every night so it's ready for game day action as soon as he wakes up?
Well, it's true.
And did you also know "Luongo's" Mom had to basically tackle her son to get the Canucks jersey off his back so it could find its way back into the laundry rotation after more than a week of solid wear?
That's true, too. Four-year-old Carter McColman wore his Canucks colors everyday since the morning he told his Mom and Dad he'd like to be called Luongo forevermore.
And who can blame him for having all those Canucks quirks? Not many pre-schoolers can say they went to a hockey game the night before and came home with a game-used stick from their favorite player.
Mark and Deb McColman didn't hesitate to let their boys stay up late when they scored four Canucks tickets right beside the Vancouver bench for the game versus the San Jose Sharks in January. It was a chance for their sons to see their heroes up-close.
"Sitting next to the bench was like we were part of the team," said Mark about the awesome row one seats. "Mattias Ohlund took a moment to make eye contact with my son Carter when the Canucks came out at the start and then during every commercial break, Roberto Luongo would come to the bench for water and a towel - and there was Carter waving and smiling like only a four-year-old can do."
Carter couldn't hide his disappointment when a thirsty Luongo kept drinking from the water bottle, dropping his mask back on his face and then skating back to his crease after the TV timeouts without so much as a wink or smile.
Mark and Deb tried reassuring Carter by telling him Luongo was just focusing on the game and he didn't want to lose concentration by waving to every fan - 18,630 waves might make his hand a little tired.
Fans may remember the game against Joe Thornton and the circling Sharks.
Vancouver were out-shot 39-20 but thanks to a first star performance by Luongo, the Canucks still managed to pull out a 3-1 victory over one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Fans may also remember what happens every time Luongo hears his named piped through the speakers announcing him as the games best player. Mark sure remembers.
"As Roberto saluted the crowd, he skated towards us and winked, and I thought 'NO WAY!'....My son who absolutely idolizes Luongo and who wants to BE Luongo is actually going to get the stick he just won the game with! It instantly brought back memories of going to Maple Leaf Gardens with my Dad and watching Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito and Bernie Parent. I just couldn't believe it was happening."
Well, it happened.
Like he's done so many times before, Luongo slid his stick over the glass to an unsuspecting young fan in the crowd and this time the lucky one was Carter - the little guy who was pressed up against the glass waving and smiling at Roberto the entire game.
It looks like he saw you after all, Carter.
"As soon as Luongo handed the stick over the glass, we were surrounded by a lot of fans," said Carter's mom Deb. "Five boys came up to him and asked if they could touch the stick and Carter let them hold it - they thought that was very cool. We were even approached by two full-grown men - kids at heart - who asked if they could take pictures with the stick. Roberto created so many smiles with his actions."
Carter stands a little over three feet tall and as his family left GM Place, he insisted on proudly carrying the nearly six foot stick back to the family van where along the way other Canuck fans gave him the thumbs up and some even rolled down their windows and shouted, "way to go" cheers.
As they got into the van, Carter boasted to his Dad about why he thought Luongo picked him to get his stick.
"I think he likes me because he saw me waving at him during the game."
Carter usually falls asleep on the car ride home but on that special night he couldn't wait to get home and play a quick game in the family kitchen with his Dad and little brother, and Mark says the stick stopped all the shots in their mini-game, too.
"For the next few days we no longer had a son named Carter," laughed Deb. "We were told his name was Luongo - so at dinner we asked 'Luongo' what he wanted and he said, 'salad' because that's what Luongo likes and it's good for hockey players."
The real-life, full-size Roberto Luongo is always the busiest player in the dressing room when it comes to media requests but he took an extra few minutes to comment on the pictures of Carter sporting his miniature goalie equipment with the familiar looking stick.
"I think it's great - any chance I get to make a kids day like that it's really special for me," said a smiling Luongo. "It's just a small gesture, but for those kids it means the entire world. I didn't get a chance to go to games when I was a kid - I only saw them on TV. But looking back, if I had a chance to meet any of my idols like Grant Fuhr or Patrick Roy, it would have meant everything to me. I know what it's like to look up to players and it's important for us to show the kids that we really care about them."
Mark and Deb wanted to personally thank Roberto for putting smiles on so many faces with his classy gesture.
"My biggest hope when I went to games with my Dad was just to have a chance to catch a puck that was shot over the glass, although that never happened," said Mark. "Roberto made everyone in our family smile and all the people around us, too. He created a special memory between father and son and for that we'd like to say thank-you."