Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the world.
That much is undeniable. In order to play in the NHL, he has to be. And not just play in the NHL, but have a career - one that’s still going - span over 12 seasons. Over 700 games. Over 100 playoff games, as heartbreaking as some may be.
To be the European goalie with the most wins, ever. To be on the verge of entering the top 10, all time. And all with what’s currently a .920 career save percentage: extremely impressive.
Over 20,000 pucks have come Lundqvist’s way. Over 18,500 of them have been stopped.
As Lundqvist details in a letter to his younger self for the Players’ Tribune, he didn’t stop that first one, though.
When you finally make it to the net, you’ll do what you’ve seen Pekka do countless times on TV. You’ll tap both posts with your stick, then you’ll square up. You’ll glide to the top of your crease, bend your knees, then glide backward toward the net.
And keep gliding.
And keep gliding and gliding.
Eventually, you’ll hit the back of the net and topple over. You’ve fallen, and you can’t get up.
Nobody told you how heavy the pads were going to be. As you’re laying there on the ice, completely helpless, your own brother will skate down on a breakaway and bury the puck in the open net.
He’ll skate away with a big smile on his face, arms in the air, while you lay there staring at the puck in the back of the net.
Remember this feeling. It never gets any easier.
Maybe not, but it did get better.
It’s adorable, thinking of how good a goalie Lundqvist now is - and how rough a start he had, unfamiliar with the equipment, but loving it on first sight.
Lundqvist spends the rest of his piece detailing how he got to where he now is: from a rural Swedish skiing town of 1,200 people all the way to New York City. There isn’t much greater contrast possible than that, and yet he made it - and has been living it ever since.
It’s a really a remarkable story, especially for eight-year-old Henrik.
And his motivations have remained throughout his entire life: it’s fun. Stopping pucks is fun, so he continues to do it.
Hopefully he has thousands more pucks to continue to stop in the coming years, too.