VANCOUVER -- Low-pitched drones of "Luuuu" mixed with wild cheering when Olympian Roberto Luongo carried the Paralympic flame to a cauldron in downtown Vancouver on Thursday evening, as the goalie made his first hometown appearance since the Canadian men's hockey team won gold at the Winter Games.
Luongo, starting goalie for the NHL Vancouver Canucks, said he had been on the road with the team since the morning after Canada team won gold in a tense overtime victory over the United States.
His first time back was to carry the Paralympic torch into Robson Square, site of the community cauldron and a focal point for crowds during the Olympics.
"It was very emotional coming down that ramp, a lot of emotions went through my mind that I witnessed playing in the Olympic Games," Luongo told reporters after lighting a mini cauldron in front of the crowd.
"Everybody was great -- I didn't expect anything less. They've been great with me every step along the way, and I was happy living this moment with them."
Many in the audience were waving Canadian flags and some were wearing Canucks jerseys.
The relay began last Wednesday in Ottawa and has been making its way toward Vancouver, where it will light the cauldron at the Paralympic opening ceremonies on Friday.
Luongo said he hopes the energy that overtook Vancouver during the Olympics remains high to cheer on the Paralympians.
"They're athletes just like us and they're competing for their country," he said.
"They need as much support as we had and I'm sure Vancouver and the country will give them that."
The 30-year-old Montreal-born goalie said he's seen sledge hockey, in which disabled athletes sit on a metal frame attached to two blades while holding sticks that help them move and handle the puck.
"It's pretty amazing what they do on the ice," he said. "Some of their shots are probably harder than some guys on our team."