King Henrik, the New York Rangers part ways

King Henrik, the New York Rangers part ways

The king is leaving New York.

Henrik Lundqvist, who served as the rock-solid backstop of the New York Rangers for 15 seasons, was bought out of the final year of his contract last Wednesday. And while the venerated netminder will hit the free agent market and potentially don a uniform other than that of the Broadway Blueshirts in 2021, his impact on the Empire City will live on in perpetuity.  

“Few players have been as important to the Rangers franchise as Henrik Lundqvist,” said team owner, James Dolan in a news release. “He has been one of hockey’s fiercest competitors and most effective ambassadors. He will always be a part of the Rangers family.”

More than 200 players (21 of which were goalies) were selected before the Rangers drafted Lundqvist with their seventh-round selection in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The native of Åre, Sweden went on to play in 887 games for the Rangers. En route, he picked up 459 regular season wins, a franchise record, and 23,509 saves, the seventh most by a goalie, ever. 

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Add to these stats a .918 career save percentage (fourth highest in NHL history), the best wins-above-replacement stat-line among all goaltenders since 2007, five all-star selections and a Vezina trophy (won in 2011-12, awarded to the league’s best goaltender), and you begin to get an idea of the impact Lundqvist — who holds over 50 franchise records — had on the Blueshirts for the past decade and a half.

Each and every night he was in the crease, ‘King Hank’ gave his team a chance to win. Such was especially true come playoff time. Between 2012 and 2015, the Rangers played in 19 elimination games. Lundqvist won 15 of those. His 61 post-season wins are the 12th most, ever, among goaltenders.

“His tireless work ethic, passion for the game, and love of the Rangers and New York City enabled him to become one of the greatest goaltenders in hockey and one of the best players in the history of our franchise,” said Rangers president and former goaltender, John Davidson. 

The numerous accolades and mind-boggling statistics, however impressive, only tell half the story of the man behind the mask. Countless athletes have crippled under the pressure of playing in New York City, but Lundqvist never shied away from the bright lights of the ‘City that Never Sleeps.’ As he came into his own, the city embraced the star; and such appreciation was certainly cyclical.

In a tweet released following the buyout, Lundqvist wrote, “In some ways, I feel like I grew up here and I will forever appreciate you, New York City!” 

He very well could have. Renowned for his dapper fashion sense and congenial attitude among fans, teammates and opponents, Lundqvist quickly became the face of the franchise. A glance around the stands at Madison Square Garden on any night will prove just so — Lundqvist’s number 30 is draped across more sweaters than one can count, and will certainly be hung from the rafters in the coming years. 

Off the ice, Lundqvist has made his presence felt in the Metropolitan area and beyond. The Henrik Lundqvist Foundation, which was founded in 2014 by Henrik and his wife Therese, has raised over $3 million to date. According to the foundation’s website, the money is given to community partners such as The Garden of Dreams Foundation, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House Charity and used to “create positive change in the lives of children and adults throughout the world through education and health services.”

On Twitter, Lundqvist made it clear that he is not ready to walk away from the sport just yet. “I still love to compete. I still love the game and I still want to WIN!” he wrote in a post on Oct. 4. As has been reported by the Canadian commentator, Bob McKenzie, the Washington Capitals are the “clear front-runner” to procure the 38-year old’s services. Perhaps with Washington, the King will seize the only thing that has alluded him throughout his storied career: Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

When he’s inevitably inducted into the Hall of Fame, however, it’s doubtful to be the Capital’s in the King’s minds-eye. Instead, what will likely reverberate through the mind of Henrik, the Garden Faithful, and the hockey world at large, will be 18,000 fans and their roars echoing off the rafters of the world’s most famous arena: “HEN-RIK.”


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