Henrik Lundqvist is someone that fans sometimes take for granted, and that both applies to Lundqvist the player and the person. It’s not to say that the vast majority of fans don’t appreciate what he’s meant to the organization, but that his eventual departure is going to impact the city and franchise more than people can comprehend.
What do I mean by this?
For starters, during All-Star weekend Henrik Lundqvist was a major winner. He took home $25,000 for winning the save streak competition and a share of the $1 million prize for being part of the winning Metropolitan Division squad.
He allowed just two goals during the entire 3-on-3 tournament, and his exclusion from being an MVP candidate was slightly suspect. The odds of a goalie winning the award are slim, but Lundvqvist deserved some recognition for his performance.
The money means very little to Lundqvist who has made a nice living for himself during his time in the NHL, and it wouldn’t surprise me if his awards end up being donated to his foundation or the Garden of Dreams foundation quietly.
What did matter to Lundqvist was the interaction with the fans. He drew large cheers each time he was introduced at the SAP Center; the only players who drew more praise were hometown stars Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and newcomer Erik Karlsson. He was popular on the red carpet as players were making there way into the arena for the various activities and the game’s oldest All-Star handled it like he always does.
During the skills competition Friday night, an interaction between Hank and his fans stood out.
Hank is the best. The looks on these kids faces. pic.twitter.com/ygCeYRctyh— Tom Urtz Jr. (2019) (@TomUrtzJr) January 26, 2019
At the time I had no idea that these were Jimmy Howard’s children, but anyone that’s watched Lundqvist in a game has seen the numerous occasions in which he stops to interact with fans in some way, such as tossing pucks to a group of young fans.
His interaction with fans in general have been good for the most part, and highlights him tossing his goal stick into the crowd after shutouts. That really doesn’t happen anymore because of the anarchy that ensued the last time he did it; now he will just fake toss it.
The initial tweet of Hank talking to Howard’s kids was posted at 11:08 p.m. ET which is kind of late for my Twitter audience, but it still got a good amount of likes and retweets. When I woke up the next day I saw things had blown up a bit and it was really cool to see some of the the comments.
When I used to live in San Jose, Hank held up the bus to sign things for my wife and our friend’s kid. We have been blessed by this man.— Bilbo Bobbins (@eastversewest) January 26, 2019
He once signed an autograph for me when he played the lightning on the road and gave up 4 goals in the third in a loss. One of the best to ever do it. A shame he won’t have a cup to his name. https://t.co/Po97eSQ7HS— HBIII (@H_Brock7) January 27, 2019
I hate the Rangers. With a passion. This guy makes it tough. Respect— Neil Schoenthaler (@Puck082) January 27, 2019
It’s ok to like players from other teams :)... but make sure to chirp em’ when they are playing your team https://t.co/pzhUItII2P— VGK Coverage (@VGKcoverage) January 27, 2019
Lundqvist’s play and tenure in the NHL coupled with his international notoriety certainly helps him get recognition from fans outside of New York, but it is nice to see Henrik the person appreciated for things that are commonplace to local fans.
In the heat of competition fans and players are always going to hate opponents, but there are some players who are able to transcend that because of their ability. Lundqvist certainly has the ability, but he also has the personality too.
If you look at the Garden of Dreams website, or do a Google search you see a lot of Lundqvist and his association with the organization
A King's ransom for charity: Henrik Lundqvist raises $35,000 for Garden of Dreams Foundation with sale of one of his Winter Classic masks— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) January 12, 2012
Henrik Lundqvist accepting the Garden of Dreams Hero Award this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/0DM4V4uk— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) March 16, 2012
His work with Garden of Dreams inspired him to start his own foundation, and the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation has done a lot of great work. Over the summer Lundqvist partnered with Mats Zuccarello and other NHL players to hold a Summer Classic in Norway to raise money for charity.
Ranger fans have been lucky to have Lundqvist on the team since 2005, and for the majority of 14 seasons he’s been here he’s been the team’s most important player.
If there was one takeaway from Lundqvist at All-Star weekend it was this for me: he’s been part of five All-Star Games in his career to date, and I don’t know how many more there will be involving him. I don’t know how much longer he is going to play hockey, and it’s going to be really weird when he’s no longer in the game. I was 13 years old when Lundqvist made his NHL debut, and I am now 26 years old, which means half my life has involved Lundqvist playing for the New York Rangers.
It is hard not to get nostalgic thinking about Lundqvist and his career as he hits certain milestones, with the most recent being his journey up the all-time wins list. In just over a month Lundqvist will turn 37, and his contract has just two years left. It is unknown if Lundqvist will call it quits after his deal is done or if he will stay around a little longer than that. With the Rangers in a rebuild there is so much uncertainty when it comes to Lundqvist, but I am choosing to be grateful for everything that has happened, and everything that will happen the rest of the way.
It was a good feeling to see Hank enjoy himself this weekend, smiling and having fun. The last calendar year hasn’t been a fun one fans or the players — especially Lundqvist, and it has led to a lot of angst, negativity, skepticism and uncertainty. But for one weekend none of that mattered.
It was a time where the hockey community took notice of the role Lundqvist has played in it for over a decade, and how he’s one of the sport’s biggest All-Stars in every sense of the word.