Goaltender Roberto Luongo’s selection as captain of the Vancouver Canucks may have been unconventional but I think it’s still the right choice. No one can dispute that he is the Canucks’ best player. He makes his teammates better. He makes the team better. He is one of Canucks’ most vocal leaders, and really, they’ll go as far as Luongo takes them. By definition, he already was the team’s captain. And that’s just the on-ice stuff.
One of the characteristics I’ve admired most in Canucks captains is their dedication to charities and involvement in the communities. Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund, Stan Smyl all devoted a great chunk of their time at Canucks Place and other causes. Luongo has already started embracing the same causes. For example, after Naslund signed with the Rangers, Luongo took over “Nazzy’s Suite Corner”, a program which gives sick and underprivileged kids an opportunity to watch Canucks games. It has since been renamed as “Lui’s Crease Corner”, and like Naslund before him, Luongo pays for use of the suite out of his own pockets.
To be honest, I didn’t even consider Luongo as a possible candidate for the captaincy. After all, NHL rule 14-D states that no goaltender can serve as captain – Joe Pelletier has a great history of this rule on his blog. – and in fact, the Canucks had to seek an exemption from the NHL prior to formally announcing Luongo as their team captain. The NHL approved the exemption on the conditions that Luongo can’t wear the ‘C’ on his jersey and the Canucks designate alternates to confer with the officials (Willie Mitchell) and perform the ceremonial duties (Mattias Ohlund).
While I understand the logistical issues with a goaltender having to leave the crease to talk to the officials, I don’t understand the issue with wearing the ‘C’ on his jersey. My feeling is that if the league approved Luongo’s appointment as team captain, they should have also approved him having a ‘C’ on his jersey. Remember that this is the same NHL that was considering plastering ads all over the goalie. I imagine Francesco Acquilini or Mike Gillis will start petitioning the league at some point to change this rule.
Regardless, after a summer of speculating, the Canucks finally have their captain and a worthy choice at that. He’s their best player and a proven leader. With or without a ‘C’ on his jersey.