Miami (AFP) - Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, a two-time Olympic and world champion for Canada, announced his retirement on Wednesday after 19 National Hockey League seasons, calling it quits at age 40.
Luongo, a hero in Canada's 2010 Winter Olympic gold medal run, was the third-winningest goalie in NHL history with a career record of 489 wins, 392 losses, 91 overtime defeats and 33 draws.
"This is one of the toughest decisions I've faced in my life and it took me a long time to make it," Luongo wrote in a letter posted on the Panthers website.
"After thinking about it a lot over the past two months and listening to my body, I made up my mind. It just feels like the right time for me to step away from the game."
Luongo had a 2.52 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and 77 shutouts over 1,044 NHL games with the New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks and the Panthers, going 18-16-5 with a 3.12 GAA and a shutout for Florida this past season.
"Once I've had some time to process this and make the adjustment, I'd love to be part of the Panthers organization. This is where my home is and I still love and want to be involved with hockey," Luongo said.
"Maybe I didn't win the Stanley Cup on the ice, but perhaps I can still put my name on it in another way. It wouldn't be quite the same, but it would still be quite the accomplishment.
"For now though, I'm just another retiree in South Florida. I'll be going to get my senior citizen's card here pretty soon."
Luongo, who trailed only Martin Broduer's 691 wins and Patrick Roy's 551 on the all-time NHL win list, said, "I found myself dreading getting back into my routine" and "I wasn't looking forward to getting back in the gym. There's a lot of work and effort required and I found my body telling me that it didn't want to go through it."
Luongo took over for Brodeur in the knockout stage of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic tournament and backstopped Canada to four wins in a golden run while a member of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, whom he helped to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
"He has always approached everything with a determination and level of class that was second to none," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. "He leaves not only a legacy in South Florida, but a legacy in the game itself.
"I have no doubt that 'Lu' will one day be a Hockey Hall of Famer and deservingly so."