What it was like to cover Henrik Lundqvist up close and personal
Whenever anyone asked me who was the best New York Rangers‘ player to deal with during my near six-year tenure with the team, I’d immediately say Henrik Lundqvist.
Some found it hard to believe. This legendary goaltender with movie star looks would be a nice guy? He was personable? He sure was.
During my time there beginning in 2013, no player was more available with his time than No. 30, who heads to the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the 2023 class on Monday night.
“It’s an opportunity to reflect on your career and things you experienced,” Lundqvist said on Friday after getting his HOF ring. “It makes you happy thinking about all the fun times you had as a hockey player. Not only on the ice but away from the game… I’m so extremely grateful for that.”
Henrik Lundqvist a HOF person
A 39-save shutout against the Devils? He’d talk to the media. A 5-0 loss to Colorado where he was pulled after two periods? He’d talk to the media.
A Saturday morning practice in Westchester, or a morning skate in Anaheim? There he was, ready and willing to answer questions from those of us who had the pleasure to cover him.
It also wasn’t just the fact he answered everything, but it was how he did so. Unless you asked a dud — which lets be honest, I sure did from time to time — Lundqvist would give a thoughtful response. I learned more from listening to his interviews than any other player I covered.
Some would downplay that quality. They’d say it’s just part of his job. And they’re correct. But so often the locker room would open after a bad loss and there’d be only two or three players at their stalls. Some of his understudies would duck out not wanting to face the music after a disastrous performance. But that wasn’t Hank’s style.
I was lucky enough to be there for some of Lundqvist’s highest highs and lowest lows. I’ll never forget the run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and going into the room after Game 6 against Montreal and seeing a smile on his face that was almost a decade in the making.
I’ll also never forget how despondent Lundqvist was after losing to Ottawa in 2017. Nearly 20 minutes after being eliminated in Pittsburgh in 2016, Lundqvist sat with all his equipment on as if not accepting the season was over.
The idea that no athlete likes losing doesn’t scratch the surface for Lundqvist’s competitive nature, as he’s been known to fire pucks at teammates — namely Mats Zuccarello — for scoring on him at practice.
Lundqvist was just as good away from the rink, whether it be at Casino Night, media day or even back home in Sweden during a youth hockey event. It’s hard being ‘on’ all the time during those types of festivities, especially when you’re the one everybody wants to be near and get a picture with. It’s not a role everyone thrives in or even wants at all.
I got to see the funny side of Lundqvist as well. Sitting at the back of the plane for his wine lotteries following a shutout were always a blast.
There was also the time a young girl got into the team hotel and waited by the elevator in the lobby for a Lundqvist autograph. The doors opened, she pounced and he signed with a smile before the doors closed.
It’s hard to believe the final chapter for Lundqvist is here. We had the games, the moments and the jersey retirement. Now we’ll get to watch him get enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
I was no where near the top of the food chain in terms of a member of the media. But he more often than not made time for me, and I’ll forever be appreciative.
I’m grateful I had a close seat during some the good and the bad. The pleasure was all mine.
Note: Matt Calamia was a Digital Content Producer and also team writer during his time with the New York Rangers from 2013 to 2018. The team site was known as Blueshirts United prior to the NHL taking over all team websites.