Soon after Don Cherry was ousted from Hockey Night in Canada last week, Hockey Twitter was abuzz with names to replace him.
One of the obvious choices: the beloved prince of Hockey Twitter himself.
If Sportsnet tries to land Roberto Luongo (@Strombone1), they won’t be the first network to reach out. The recent retiree has turned down multiple offers to talk hockey on TV.
“Too much stress,” said Luongo, grinning beneath his salt and pepper beard.
So “Lu’s Lair” won’t be a thing, but Luongo is plenty busy these days. Rather than yakking for a few minutes every week, Luongo has used his listening ears.
In the first few months of his life as an ex-NHLer, after a combination of troublesome hips and age (40) caused him to hang ’em up, he has hung around the Panthers, soaking up everything he can.
On Wednesday the team, which already employs senior VP Shawn Thornton, officially made him a special advisor to general manager Dale Tallon.
Being around has helped Luongo fill the post-retirement void felt by most every player.
“I think it’s really kept me happy,” Luongo said. “It’s something I was scared of missing. At the rink every day when the team’s home, I see the guys and chat with them for a few minutes, and then do my thing. The first couple months after I decided, it was tough, just going day by day not knowing what the future would hold.”
Last week he checked in with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate in Springfield, where his brother, Leo, is the goalie coach. His other brother, Fabio, owns a restaurant (La Bella Italiana) in Montreal’s Sainte-Leonard area, and his father-in-law owns Pizza Time in Coral Springs, Fla., where Luongo met his wife, Gina. Management, rather than coaching or being a restaurateur, is what intrigues the likely future Hall of Famer.
“I like to be involved in the day-to-day transactions and all those kind of things, drafts and trades and all that,” he said. “That’s the stuff I find really interesting and exciting. I’m learning as much as I can right now.”
Luongo, eligible for the Hall in 2022, was at TD Garden on Tuesday for the Bruins-Panthers game, after he took a trip to The Heights. That’s where the Panthers’ top goalie prospect, last June’s 13th overall pick Spencer Knight, stops pucks at Boston College. He’s hobnobbing with scouts to learn about draft-eligible prospects. He’s also diving deep into the thorny pages of the NHL’s financial regulations.
“Trying to go through the CBA,” he said, “is … taking me a while.”
Contained in those byzantine rules: an explanation of why two teams still carry his cap hit. When he retired on June 26, he had more than $3.6 million in salary remaining on the 12-year, $64 million contract he signed in 2009 (the one he memorably and self-deprecatingly said “sucks”). Because of his early retirement, the Canucks and Panthers took a cap recapture penalty. Vancouver carries slightly more than $3.03 million, Florida some $1.01 million. His new role with the Cats will pay him a hefty chunk of what he left on the table as a player.
No dollar figure could coerce him to don the pads again. He didn’t know when he might suit up for the Panthers alumni. He said he even turned down the Hall, when it asked him to play in its annual Legends game this year in Toronto.
“I’m scared to get hurt right now,” he said. “But we’ll see.”
He’s happy to be a Panther, off-ice, in office.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports