Roberto Luongo, the reaffirmed starting goalie for the Vancouver Canucks, is in Las Vegas this week to participate in the World Series of Poker tournament. Luongo is a star celebrity of the BCLC powered PlayNow.com, and continues to be an ambassador for the online casino across Canada and the rest of the world.
But while Luongo is getting ready to sit at the Vegas poker tables, all questions for the goaltender are related to his game on the ice rather than at the poker felt. The Vancouver Canucks went through a tumultuous season with Luongo this year, downgrading him to their backup goaltender in favour of Cory Schneider, and then allowing the goalies to engage in a back and forth contest for the top spot.
In the offseason, Schneider was traded to New Jersey, which placed Luongo back in the starting goalie position. Insiders close to Canucks management believe Schneider was traded because Luongo’s 10-year $100 million contract was unmovable, and the team knew they couldn’t go through another year without a clear decision on goaltending.
However, Luongo wasn’t satisfied with the Canucks management, and publicly shared his desire to be traded during the offseason. Instead, the team committed him to play between their pipes, which fans speculate has left a sour taste in Luongo’s mouth.
He has thus far, refused to comment on whether he will report for Vancouver training camp in September, and is unwilling to discuss the situation while in Las Vegas. Luongo cancelled a radio interview to promote the poker tournament citing concerns that questions would be targeted to the tension with the Canucks. Vancouver made its decision not to trade Luongo on July 1 and one week later, the goalie will only answer questions on Twitter, and only on the subject of poker.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis is optimistic that Luongo will put the past year behind them, and show up for training camp as scheduled. Gillis also wished Luongo the best of luck in Vegas.
“I have the utmost respect for this guy. I think he’s a fantastic person. He’s done tons in the community here.”
Luongo played in the WSOP last year, and finished 634th overall. He hopes to improve his game this time around, and also build more awareness for Playnow.com and the BCLC.