The 2006 Winter Olympic hockey tournament was...weird.
It was such a weird time for hockey as a whole since the NHL was just coming back from a season killing lockout and popularity had cratered in North America.
Canada and the United States finished in 7th and 8th place respectively. The Canadian roster seemed pretty stacked; players like Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash, and Joe Thornton suited up for our northern neighbors over in Italy, but for some reason it never really... clicked for them. The Americans on the other hand loaded their squad with a bunch of players that were at the twilight of their careers, led by the 44-year-old Chris Chelios and 35-year-old Bret Hedican.
As for our Scandinavian friends, the 2006 Olympics were massive. Team Sweden was led by Mats Sundin, Henrik Zetterberg, the Sedin twins in their prime, and arguably the greatest defenseman to ever play the game in Nick Lidstrom. And who was in net behind this star-studded team? Some rookie goaltender who had taken New York and the NHL by storm: Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist was only halfway through his first NHL season with the Rangers when the NHL paused for the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. There, the Swedish goaltending situation included Stefan Liv and Mikael Tellqvist, which left the bulk of the starting net to fall on the relatively unproven shoulders of Lundqvist.
It’s fair to say that Hank handled that responsibility pretty well, as he led the Tre Kroner to Sweden’s first gold medal in 12 years while also defeating their forever rival Team Finland in the Gold Medal game.
*Bonus points if you can name the country that won Bronze without using Google.
Lundqvist’s performance during the 2006 Olympics that earned him his nickname, “The King.” Plus, it was the first time that Henrik made a save that caused the collective hockey world to drop their jaws in amazement.
With 30 seconds left to play in the Gold Medal game, and Finland down one goal, the puck gets to Olli Joking who has a chance with open net when, from out of nowhere, Lundqvist’s blocker stops it to keep Sweden in the lead.
You know, looking back on it., we probably should have used this moment as the “eureka” moment. This was Hank’s moment of pulling the sword from the stone and crowning himself The King that we know him as today.