Milan Lucic’s Boston Bruins engaged in a bitter 2011 Stanley Final with Roberto Luongo’s Vancouver Canucks, but the bruising forward will put that aside and root for the veteran ice hockey goalie to help Canada win back-to-back gold medals.
As Lucic told CSNNE.com, pride in his country trumps that still-memorable seven-game championship series.
In fact, in admitting so, it seemed like the 25-year-old winger also acknowledged some begrudging respect for Luongo, stating that he believes “too many people point the finger” at the 34-year-old netminder.
“He’s managed to keep his game at a high level, and he’s on the Olympic team,” Lucic said. “He’s still one of the best goaltenders in the league. It shows a lot about his character. I wish him all the best in Sochi. I’m Canadian, right? It’s the only time I’ll cheer for him.”
Despite tending net in the very city where he won Olympic gold, Luongo is often a lightning rod for criticism as Vancouver aches for a Stanley Cup. Nonetheless, he remains one of the most consistent goalies in the NHL, something that Lucic recognizes.
For NHL players heading to Sochi, it might feel strange to pump your fists when a divisional foe scores a historic goal and to slink down at least a little bit when a teammate and friend wins, but that’s also part of what makes the NHL’s participation in the Olympics so special.
And, yes, a little weird.