Florida Panthers' Luongo gives moving pregame speech on school shooting

By Alex Butler  |  Feb. 23, 2018 at 12:40 PM
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Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo gave a tearful speech before a hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., regarding the recent school shooting in nearby Parkland.

The 19-year NHL veteran lives in Parkland with his wife and two children. His wife, Gina Cerbone, is from the South Florida suburb.

Luongo walked out to cheers from thousands of fans saying "Luuu" as he took the microphone to talk about the Valentine's Day shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The 38-year-old goaltender has spent more than a decade with the franchise. The Panthers play their home games at BB&T Arena, located about 13.5 miles from the high school. Students, parents and thousands of others met there for a CNN forum earlier this week.

"I just want to start off by saying that I live in Parkland," Luongo told Thursday's crowd, before the Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

"I've been living there for the past 12 years. My wife was born and raised in that area. My kids go to school in Parkland. When I'm done playing hockey, I want to spend the rest of my life in Parkland. I love that city."

"Last week was Valentine's Day. I was in Vancouver. Obviously, we all know happened. It was hard for me to be on the West Coast and not be able to get back home and protect my family. No child should have to go through that. It's terrible. It's time for us as a community to take action. It's enough. Enough is enough. We got to take action."

"To the families of the victims, our hearts are broken for you guys. There's not much to say. It's heartbreaking. You guys are in our thoughts. We've been thinking about you every day constantly for the last week. Just to know that we're there for you if you guys need anything. You'll be in our prayers. Let's try and move on together. Last, two more things."

"To the teachers of the school, you guys are heroes...protecting your children. Some of them didn't make it, trying to protect children. That is truly what a hero is. Those people need to be put on a pedestal for the rest of their lives."

"The last thing I want to say is since last Wednesday, I've been watching the news and I've been seeing what the kids from Stoneman Douglas have been doing. I am very, very proud of you guys. You guys are brave. You guys are an inspiration to all of us. At the end of the day, you guys are what's giving us hope for the future."

"Thank you."

The Panthers also memorialized the students and faculty lost in the tragedy by having a moment of silence and shining a spotlight onto the ice, revealing the names of those who died. Luongo and his teammates had "MSD" patches on their jerseys during the game and wore Stoneman Douglas hats in warmups.

"All of us are sharing a grief we all understand, yet find difficult to comprehend," Panthers analyst Randy Moller told fans before the game. "We are brokenhearted that 17 children and teachers were robbed of their lives and that hundreds of family members and friends have had their world shattered as well. And that all of us will never see those hopeful children blossom into the contributors to the community we could so vividly envision. Indeed as these innocent souls rest in peace, it is we who feel the anguish and the burden and the responsibility to take positive action to insure such brutal, senseless, violent destruction hurts no more families and steals the lives of no more children."

The Panthers also teamed up with JetBlue and OneBlood, hosting a blood drive for the community in honor of the victims.

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