The best goalie in New York Rangers history turns 35 today.
Henrik Lundqvist [lend-kvist] is the only goalie in NHL history to record 30 wins in each of his first seven seasons. He is also the first to start a career with 11 straight 20-win seasons. Lundqvist joined the Rangers for the 2005-06 season and made such an impact he was dubbed King Henrik by the New York media. After being named to the All-Rookie Team, he became the undisputed leader of the Rangers. Sensationally quick and athletic, Lundqvist was voted MVP by his Rangers teammates a record seven straight times. One of the best and most consistent goalies of his generation, Lundqvist owns several Rangers club records, including most wins, most shut outs, and most games played by a goalie.
Henrik and Joel Lundqvist are identical twins born on this date in 1982. Raised in Are, Sweden—a ski resort town in Jamtland County, along Sweden’s western border—they began skating on a sand pit their kindergarten teachers froze over in winter. Later, they moved to the frozen ponds of Are. The Lundqvists joined their first organized hockey team at seven. Henrik idolized Pekka Lindmark, goalie for the Swedish national team, and was in awe of goalies’ oversized pads, waffle stick, face mask and glove. When the pee-wee coach asked who wanted to play goalie, Henrik was too shy to raise his hand. Knowing how badly his brother wanted to guard the net, Joel raised Henrik’s hand for him. The family moved to Bastad in southern Sweden to support older sister Gabriella’s tennis career and the boys joined the local hockey team. The twins were driven all over Sweden to play hockey by their ski instructor father, who encouraged them to set goals. “Dream big,” the elder Lundqvist told his sons. “Picture yourself playing for Frolunda. Picture yourself playing for Sweden, pulling on the sweater.” The twins left home at 16 and moved to Gothenburg, where they played for the Frolunda junior team.
The New York Rangers made Lundqvist the 205th overall selection of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft after he led Frolunda to their second straight Swedish Junior Championship. Rather than join the NHL, he opted to stay in Sweden and continue to hone his skills. In 2002, he was Sweden Junior Hockey Player of the Year. The following season, Lundqvist moved up to the Frolunda Hockey Club senior team to play in the Swedish Hockey League—the country’s most elite professional circuit. Lundqvist made quite a splash in his first year playing with the big boys, as he led Frolunda to the SHL title, guided Sweden to the first of back-to-back silver medals at the World Championships, and won the first of three straight Honken Trophies as Sweden’s top goaltender. After capturing a second SHL title in three seasons with Frolunda, Lundqvist left Sweden and headed for the Big Apple.
Twenty-three-year-old Henrik Lundqvist went from a tiny town of 1,200 in the Swedish mountains to playing for an Original Six team on the world’s biggest stage. Playing on a team without brother Joel for the first time in his life, he electrified crowds at Madison Square Garden with his butterfly style of goaltending. Handsome and humble, New Yorkers quickly crowned Lundqvist as “The King.” After being named to the Rookie All-Star Team, Lundqvist tended goal for Team Sweden in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. There, he set an Olympic record for consecutive minutes played [172:34] without allowing a goal while leading Sweden to the second Olympic gold in the nation’s history. Mr. Lundqvist was nominated for the Vezina Trophy as hockey’s top goalie four times, including in each of his first three seasons. He won the award in 2012, and played in the NHL All-Star Game in 2009, 2011, and 2012.
In addition to his stellar NHL career, Lundqvist has starred on the international stage as well. In 2005, he won the Guldhjalmen [Gold Helmet], awarded annually to the Swedish Hockey League’s most valuable player. That same season, he earned the Guldpucken [Gold Puck] as the SHL’s player of the year. Lundqvist was named Best Goaltender at the 2004 World Championships and was voted to the 2014 Winter Olympic All-Star Team.
While Henrik Lundqvist was selected with the 205th pick of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, his twin brother Joel was taken 68th by the Dallas Stars. Joel Lundqvist played three seasons with Dallas before returning to Sweden to play for Frolunda, where he is team captain. On December 14, 2006, Henrik’s Rangers traveled to Dallas play Joel’s Stars. New York prevailed, 5-2. It was the first time a goalie faced his twin in NHL history.
“Lundy” is every woman’s dream and the envy of every man. At 6’1”, 188, he is dashing and athletically gifted. In addition to being a brilliant goaltender, Lundqvist is charitable, raising money through his foundation to “create positive change in the lives of children through education and health services.” Lundqvist plays guitar and has jammed onstage with John McEnroe’s band in New York City. He is part owner of Tiny’s, a restaurant in Tribeca, and was named to People magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People” list in 2006. One of the best-dressed athletes in sports, Lundqvist also gives back. In 2015, he was a finalist for both ESPN Sports Humanitarian of the Year as well as the NHL Foundation Player Award. Currently in his 12th NHL season, Mr. Lundqvist has made nearly 19,000 career saves, amassed over 60 shutouts, and has a .920 save percentage. His career goals-against average is 2.31, eighth-best all-time among goalies in the post-1940 “live puck” era.