Roberto Luongo and Sidney Crosby linked forever by an Olympic moment

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The connection is strong and so very much alive on this Hall of Fame weekend — the bond that will always exist between Roberto Luongo and Sidney Crosby.

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The proud goalie will be inducted into the Hall on Monday night. The history-changing centre, an obvious future of hall of famer Crosby, was on the ice in the Hall of Fame game Friday night against the Maple Leafs. Luongo and Crosby: Together for at least one more hockey night.

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There may be eight years between them in age, between the goaltender Luongo and the all-time great Crosby at centre, but they will always be connected by time and circumstance and a Canadian hockey moment frozen for the ages.

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By now, everyone knows that Crosby scored the winning goal in overtime at the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010 — the so-named Golden Goal. It’s the Paul Henderson, ‘where were you’ hockey moment for a younger generation of Canadians. But what is rarely talked about is the save Luongo made 17 seconds before the Crosby goal.

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Maybe the save of his lifetime.

“It was a quick play, a turnover” Luongo was telling the story Friday at the Hall. “(Joe) Pavelski just turned around and shot it. I just threw my elbow out for some reason and it hit it. It was a good shot.”

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“There are so many of those plays we think of throughout the game,” Crosby said. “You see that a number of times in hockey where a goalie makes a big save and you get one the other way. He was pretty clutch and he was great for us.”

Luongo continued: “I was actually going to freeze the puck and kill the play and I was doing that when (Scott) Niedermayer called for the puck, so I slid it to him. And the play went on.”

Niedermayer carried the puck, as was his custom, and passed to Crosby. The puck wound up tangled up in the skates of an official. Jarome Iginla fed the puck to Crosby, who scored quickly on Ryan Miller to win gold for Canada. History was made and the streets of Vancouver and the streets of Canada were open for a celebration.

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The championship was the only one of Luongo’s career.

He almost won a Stanley Cup a year later but the painful memory of the 2011 defeat to the Boston Bruins lives with him. It lives with everyone who played for that Canucks team.

But when asked Friday the baseball question, if he had to pick a team to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, what team would he pick? He played for the Islanders, the Panthers, the Canucks, and the Panthers again.

His answer: Team Canada.

Would probably be our answer too.

“Sometimes I ask myself, what would have happened had I froze the puck (after the Pavelski save),” Luongo said. “It could have been a different outcome. (The win) it’s huge, especially for me. Because I didn’t win any of the other stuff. It was one of the biggest moments of my career, and it was in Vancouver, how it all came about. So much pressure on everybody to perform and get it done. That was such a moment of euphoria.”

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As he stood on one side of the Great Hall, with the plaques of Islanders legends Al Arbour, Bill Torrey, and Bryan Trottier behind where he was standing, Luongo’s first team, the hall of famer with a new ring was clear: Without the gold medal, he wasn’t sure he was getting into this Hall of any other Hall. Getting in as a first-ballot entry.

“I’m really happy for him,” said Crosby. “I’m happy for the person, I’m happy for the hockey player. What he accomplished in his career was pretty special.
“And from a personal point of view, he was awesome to me when we played together. He was a veteran. I was a young guy. My sister grew up a Luongo fan and when he found that out, right away he gave me a signed stick for her. He treated me so well on that team.”

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Crosby was 22 when he scored the Golden Goal. Luongo was 30 when he had the gold medal placed around his neck.

There are no NHL players in the Olympics anymore and we don’t know when they’ll next be any kind of international hockey event that will unite a country the way the 2010 Games of Vancouver did. Crosby got the chance to win in 2010 and again in 2014. Luongo won his gold in Vancouver, his only gold medal at he starred for the Canucks.
Now his gold comes from a ring he received Friday afternoon, from the place he now holds in modern hockey history, and from all the accolades that come from a Hall of Fame weekend. “He deserves it,” said Crosby. “What a career he’s had.”

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