In a career that has spanned 11 seasons, Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo has done just about everything. He's accrued accolades both of the individual and team variety with multiple All-Star appearances, a 2004 World Cup of Hockey title, two IIHF World Championships and of course a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
But despite his myriad of accomplishments, Luongo has always carried a reputation as a goalie who, despite obvious talents, might never win the ultimate prize due to a tendency to surrender the occasional soft goal or make a dramatic mental error such as his misguided clearing pass in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals this year, which Joe Thornton intercepted and tossed into a wide open net. Luongo has yet to touch the Stanley Cup in what might be an otherwise Hall of Fame career, but a glance at recent history suggests it may not be Luongo's skill set or how he reacts to high-pressure situations.
It might just be the number on his back.
While most netminders prefer a number in the 20s, 30s or 40s, a goaltender wearing No. 1 is not unusual, as the digit has been worn by legends like Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall and Johnny Bower. In fact, of the 87 goalies who played at least 1 minute in the NHL this season, nine of them wore No. 1, a group that includes a Vezina nominee (Luongo), a former Calder Trophy winner (Steve Mason), two of the League's top backups (Brent Johnson and Johan Hedberg) and not one but two players who have probably been forced to sing Weezer way too many times at karaoke (Jonas Hiller and Jhonas Enroth).
These players might all be better off crooning some Three Dog Night instead, however, because in addition to all wearing the loneliest number, these goalies all share in common one sobering reality: none of them have ever won the Stanley Cup.
Of course it's foolish to think that a single layer of twill fabric is what has kept these men from winning a championship, but then again only one of them (Hedberg) was even alive the last time a team won the Stanley Cup with a primary goaltender sporting a 1 on his sweater. To see that sight you have to go all the way to 1975 when Philadelphia's Bernie Parent won his second Cup in a row.
By contrast, the numbers 30 and 31 have been worn by the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender eight and nine times since then, respectively. The number 1, meanwhile, has had several chances to get off the schneid -- including Kirk McLean, who played in goal for Vancouver in their last Final appearance 17 years ago. McLean, Ray Emery, Arturs Irbe, Brian Hayward and Reggie Lemelin (twice) all have played in the Final since Parent's last victory wearing No. 1 without coming out on top.
Coincidentally or not, Emery, who was the last goaltender to wear No. 1 in the Final in 2007 with Ottawa, has since switched to 29.
Certainly Luongo's numerical choices will be far from his mind when he takes the ice for Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, but if the circumstantial evidence is any indication, the going could get tricky for him once the puck drops.