The King and I, a season ticket holder’s goodbye to Henrik Lundqvist
The inevitable has become the reality
In February of 2018, the Rangers brain trust issued their now legendary letter alerting the Garden Faithful of the upcoming rebuilding and retooling of the franchise. One would have expected the somber and difficult day in which the greatest goalie in team history, Henrik Lundqvist and the only NHL franchise he’d ever known would go their separate ways. The buying out of the final year of Lundqvist’s contract freed up much needed salary cap space for the Blueshirts and allowed “The King” to continue his NHL career with the Capitals.
The loyal readers of Forever Blueshirts are well aware of my affinity for Lundqvist and those kind souls who downloaded my EBOOK, “Long Suffering -The Trials & Tribulations of a Mets, Jets and Rangers Fan” realize just how much Henrik the hockey player means to me. As social media becomes inundated with fans, players, journalists and other distinguished persons paying homage to #30, I would like to share a couple of stories of a more personal nature.
Folks, Henrik’s stats and records speak for themselves. He re-wrote the goalie section of the team’s media guide and his myriad of accomplishments are ubiquitous and omnipresent. Please indulge me and join me on a stroll down memory lane.
The King and I, my Henrik Lundqvist experiences
I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Henrik Lundqvist on two occasions at New York Rangers Casino Night.
Henrik was in his second year backstopping the Blueshirts in 2007. As one would imagine, the crush of fans surrounding Lundqvist was reminiscent of The Beatles at Shea Stadium circa 1964, hyperbolicly speaking. Since autographs are not permitted at Casino Night, all those in attendance wanted their picture taken with the dapper, suave Ranger goalie.
I used my considerable size to elbow my way towards the chaotic semi-circle in which Lundqvist was anchored down taking one picture after another. I asked for a photo and he remarked that he had a prior commitment. but he’d return shortly.
Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, he returned to take more pictures with the adoring Garden Faithful. As a member of the Ranger PR staff attempted to whisk him away again. Henrik turned around and notified the staffer that he needed to take one more picture. Henrik walked over to me, I quickly pressed the shutter button on my digital camera and thanked him for keeping his word. He replied, “you’re welcome” and continued on to his next commitment for the evening.
A King for the people
In 2018 Casino Night took place just days before the trade deadline that saw the likes of Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller pack their bags and leave town as victims of the Ranger roster purge. Suffice to say there was a dark, ominous cloud hanging over what normally is a joyous, celebratory event. Unlike the hysterics of 2007, this time, the Rangers had the wherewith-all to seclude Lundqvist in a roped off area of the catering hall and form a calm and peaceful line for guests to stand in if they wanted a picture with Lundqvist.
While most of his Blueshirt teammates were enjoying adult beverages, gourmet food and partaking in the various casino table games, Henrik, clad in a tuxedo ensemble that likely cost more than my monthly salary. He stood in front of a Garden of Dreams banner snapping photo after photo after photo with his legions of adoring fans abandoning his post only to jump on stage with the emcee for the evening Sam Rosen to auction off his a game used goalie mask. Once the auction was done, Lundqvist returned right back to his perch where another long line of fans had gathered. Yes, I, along with my wife, waited in that eternal line for our opportunity to have our picture taken with the legendary Lundqvist and it certainly was well worth the wait.
Henrik Lundqvist will forever be a Ranger
A scant few athletes have endeared themselves to me like Henrik Lundqvist. What this man gave to my hockey team is something that words cannot describe. Let’s be honest folks, how many players synonymous with Ranger hockey can fit in the “all time great” category? In my 40-plus years of being a card-carrying member of the Garden Faithful, only Brian Leetch and Lundqvist belong to that elusive and exclusive club. Gretzky, Messier, Jagr, Esposito, Dionne, LaFleur etc made their marks elsewhere before donning the red, while and blue sweater. Leetch and Lundqvist went from 18 year old draftees, straight down Broadway, right to the Hall of Fame.
Yes, the inevitable has become a reality and the reality is Henrik Lundqvist no longer plays for the New York Rangers. I am getting choked up as I incredulously type those words.
My hope is once he hangs up his goalie pads for good, that he’ll rejoin the Rangers in some capacity, Either as a member of the front office, or perhaps as a goalie consultant. The Rangers will be a force to be reckoned with and could very well be a bonafide Stanley Cup contender within the next couple of seasons. If the Blueshirts are able to capture Lord Stanley’s silver chalice, I believe all of Rangerstown would want Lundqvist to be a part of the celebration in one form or another.
Henrik, as a die-hard, long-suffering Rangers fan, thank you for all you’ve done both on and off the ice. Your work on the corner of 7th Avenue and 33rd Street will never be forgotten. Happy trails, Hank.