Baby Louie hasn’t even arrived on the scene yet and he/she already might hold the Vancouver Canucks’ playoff hopes in his/her tiny hands.
Normally this wouldn’t be too big a problem, since the Canucks close out the season with four straight games at GM Place against the Calgary Flames this Sunday, Colorado Avalanche April 1, Edmonton Oilers April 3 and the Flames again to finish the regular season April 5.
It is, however, a problem when your wife is giving birth thousands of miles and three time zones away. And if the little bundle of joy grows up to be a goaltender, and turns out to be anywhere near as good as his/her old man, being born in Florida will allow him/her to compete for the United States in international competition.
How’s that for a kick in the hockey pants, eh?
This isn’t blowing off a meaningless All-Star Game. If Luongo were to leave the Canucks to take his place beside his wife as she gives birth, the Canucks would be in jeopardy of losing a playoff spot and potentially millions of dollars in playoff revenues that go with it.
(Let’s not go so far as to say it could cost them the Stanley Cup. Hey, they’re not that good, with or without Luongo in the nets.)
But if faced with the choice, there is no doubt Luongo will choose his wife and his family over his team. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Normally, I’m not a big one for a millionaire player not fulfilling the obligations of his contract. For example, I think Edmonton native and Anaheim Ducks’ defenseman Scott Niedermayer got off way too easily after essentially taking a four-month vacation earlier this season, despite the fact he was in the third year of a four-year contract.
But this is far different. As teammate Brendan Morrison said, “it’s a no-brainer.”
After all, Luongo has done his bit for the Canucks this season. After he played last night in their game against the Calgary Flames, Luongo appeared in 67 of 76 games this season and has been brilliant in almost all of them. Despite facing the fifth-most shots of any goalie in the league, Luongo is at or near the top of all the NHL’s goaltending statistics.
And that is exacerbated by the fact that going into last night, the Canucks were among the lowest-scoring teams currently holding down a playoff spot. Luongo cannot afford to have a bad game and when he does, the Canucks, generally speaking, don’t have the firepower to bail him out.
But they will have to find a way to do just that if Luongo has to leave at a moment’s notice to be there for one of the most important times of a person’s life. It’s the least they could do for the man who almost single-handedly got them to this spot in the first place.
This column also appears in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.
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