Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo on his Italian heritage, Twitter following and poker plans

Roberto Luongo continues to climb the ranks of wins and games played. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Veteran Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo now trails only Martin Brodeur (691), Patrick Roy (551) and Ed Belfour (484) on the NHL's all-time wins list among goalies. Luongo, 38, talked about racking up wins (and losses), his Italian heritage, showing his wit on Twitter and whether poker is part of his plans after he hangs up his skates.

ESPN.com: Now that you've caught Curtis Joseph (at 454 wins), what is it like to see only three goaltenders ahead of you on that all-time wins list?

Luongo: Obviously, it's an honor to be part of that group. But to be honest with you, especially when the season is under way, I'm more focused on the team and winning games and trying to get into the playoffs. Winning games goes hand-in-hand with climbing up charts like that, but those are things you think about more in the offseason. During the season, it's all about winning games.

ESPN.com: On the flip side, only Marty Brodeur [397] has more losses than you [368].

Luongo: That's the record I'm going after. [Laughs.] That's the one I want.

ESPN.com: Speaking of Brodeur, is it true he grew up just four blocks from you in Saint-Leonard, Quebec?

Luongo: Yeah. It's pretty crazy. We lived in the same small little borough in Montreal. We have just two arenas in [Saint-Leonard] -- one is named after him, and the other is named after me. It's pretty cool. He was [seven years] older and he was way ahead of me when I went through the system, so I never had a chance to meet him until I made it to the NHL.

ESPN.com: I understand that your father, Antonio, encouraged you and your younger brothers [Leo and Fabio] to play hockey, but your mom, Pasqualina, was not crazy about you playing goaltender.

Luongo: They both weren't crazy about it. They wanted me to skate and get some exercise and not stand in front of the net and do nothing. So I was a forward for the first three years that I played and didn't become a goalie until I was about 12 years old.

ESPN.com: You have pretty strong roots in Italy. Are you proud of that heritage?

Luongo: Definitely. It's part of who I am. My dad grew up there, and even though my mom was born in Canada, her parents were born in Italy. I grew up speaking Italian around the house and still do when I go back home. When my dad's there, we speak Italian in the house.

ESPN.com: And you proposed to your wife, Gina, in Venice?

Luongo: Yeah. It was after the [2004] World Championships in Prague. We stopped for a little tour of Italy and I proposed in Venice, under the Bridge of Sighs, the old-fashioned way. It's beautiful there.

ESPN.com: When you look at the way the game has changed since you arrived in the NHL, in 1999, do you think it was better then or now?

Luongo: It's definitely better now. It's a faster game. Everything is done at high speed. If you look at game tapes from 15 or 20 years ago, the pace was nothing like it is today. You don't just have one or two superstars. There are a lot of players who can play now. A lot of guys have talent and are better conditioned.

The game has evolved a lot, and I've seen it in the goaltending position too. The way I played 15 years ago is not the same as how I play now. It's a position that continues to evolve, and what's important to me is that I develop as the game changes and not be stuck in the way I played back in the day.

ESPN.com: How is your game most different?

Luongo: When I was younger, I was a lot more serious. Now I try to enjoy it more and take it all in. I'm not sure if it's because of my age and realizing that I don't know how much time I have left in the league, but I try to enjoy the moments and have fun out there. I didn't do that as much when I was younger.

ESPN.com: So you take yourself less seriously now than you did before?

Luongo: Definitely. When I was younger -- and it wasn't necessarily a fault -- but when things sort of fell apart, it was tough for me to get over it. I'd much rather be who I am today. It still hurts to lose, but you know how to deal with it better and you get over it quicker, so you can focus on the next game.

ESPN.com: I'm not sure if it was by design, but you've become quite the star of the Twitterverse [with more than 781,000 followers]. I noticed you started your account, @Strombone1, in July 2011, shortly after the Stanley Cup Final [when Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks blew a 3-2 series lead to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins]. What led to you choosing to start posting on Twitter then?

Luongo: At first, it was something I had no intention of becoming as big as it did. It was more personal, mostly for my friends. All of a sudden, a few teammates started to follow me, other people noticed all my teammates were following my account, and everyone started getting curious. At the end of the day, I just wanted to be myself. Sometimes it's tough to express that when you have 20 cameras in front of your face and you're trying to say the right things and not upset anybody and be politically correct. That's how it all started, and it's grown into what it is today. I'm happy that a lot of people enjoy it, and at the same time, I get to be myself.

ESPN.com: Why @Strombone1?

Luongo: It's just a saying my friends and I had when I was younger. I can't get into details about what it means; it's kind of personal. In the beginning, there was no intention of it becoming this big. It was anonymous, right? Not Kevin Durant anonymous, but still anonymous. As it got bigger, I grew with it. As you can tell, I'm not verified or anything, but that's not the purpose of the account.

ESPN.com: Let's talk about your passion for poker. You played in two separate World Series of Poker tournaments. What made you take such a strong interest in poker?

Luongo: I don't play poker anymore. I stopped when I got traded back to Florida [in 2014]. First of all, you can't play online poker in the United States, so that was a big hit for me. Plus, my kids [Gabriella, 9, and Gianni, 6] are a little bit older now and I'd rather spend time with them.

It's very time-consuming to play poker, and for a few years, it was a serious passion. I studied it. I read about 10 or 12 books on it and was playing pretty much eight to 10 hours a day online every day. I found, especially when I went to the World Series of Poker, that the days are long and it's such a mental challenge to stay focused and sharp for that amount of time. It's easy to get tired and make mistakes. To me, it was a mental challenge, like goaltending. Being able to grind through that long day and make sure your mind doesn't fail you when you need it most.

ESPN.com: I've heard that there have been a handful of good poker players in the NHL over the years, guys like Tomas Vokoun and Phil Kessel. Who are the best players you've faced?

Luongo: It's funny. Not a lot of [hockey] guys make good poker players. They don't have the patience to sit there and play one hand an hour if they have to. They want to play every hand, and unfortunately, that's not how you play. You have to pick your spots and be smart about it. We still play cards on the plane; it's just not poker. It's a good way to spend some time together, have a laugh and get inside each other's heads.

ESPN.com: When you look at this team and the young talent it has, how do you view what happened last season with the firing of head coach Gerard Gallant, and general manager Dale Tallon being moved into a different role [before returning as GM this season]?

Luongo: We don't want to talk too much about last year anymore. We want to move on. But it was a tough year for everybody. We accepted it and moved on, and we're excited about what we have now with a new coaching staff. We're just going to get better because we're still learning. We have confidence in [new coach Bob] Boughner. He's a very good guy, very knowledgeable, and it should lead to good things for this team.

ESPN.com: Last question. You're 38 with four more years to go on your contract. Do you see yourself playing at 42?

Luongo: It's a bit hard to say. I've been dealing with [a hip] injury over the last year and half, and I wasn't quite sure how it would play out. But I had a good summer of rehab and training, and I'm back to 100 percent. [Editor's note: This interview was conducted before he injured his hand.]

I still have a lot of passion for the game and want to play as long as I can. As long as that fire burns in me and my health is good, I'd love to play as long as Jags [45-year-old former teammate Jaromir Jagr] has played. I know there is a window for this group over the next five or six years to get the job done. I want to be a part of that and, hopefully, stick around a little bit longer.