Rangers fans have always had an affinity for our goalies From Dave Kerr to Gump Worsley to Eddie Giacomin to John Davidson to The Beezer to Mike Richter and finally to THE KING. Like Giants fans and our affinity for our defense Goalies have always been special to us. In my lifetime as a Rangers fan I have been lucky enough to have seen all of them from EDDIE through now. 53 years of love, admiration, frustration, thrills and chills and unfortunately many, many disappointments. But what I, as a rabid Rangers fan, have never been really disappointed by, has been the play of our many beloved and outstanding goalies. And for as much as I have loved them all for a multitude of reasons, Henrik: The King is my favorite all time. And I say that with some hesitation but with genuine reverence.
Eddie was the first of the goalies that I started watching. He was SO Beloved by the fans and it was a dagger to the heart when he was unceremoniously waived and signed with Detroit. Eddie led us to many playoffs and a near championship in 1972. He will always have a special place in my heart.
Then Came JD. He led us to the SCF against the Canadiens in which we probably would have won if Ulfie wasn't... Well you know what happened. But for as good as a goalie he was until injuries hampered his career I believe he became more beloved as the best Hockey analyst in the game. He was the most knowledgeable announcer in the history of the game and he made every listener feel like we were all experts as he explained the game/plays so well.
Beezer was next in line but quite honestly except for his one Vezina trophy year in which he led us to the conference finals he was a very good goalie but he had his best years as a Panther.
Now we get to the meat. Mike Richter will forever be beloved as he brought us to the promised land after 54 years of suffering! Richter had an OUTSTANDING career with the Rangers and is considered the GREATEST U.S. born Goalie in the history of the NHL. He did what no other in 54 years could do, he won us the Stanley Cup! He was regarded as one of the top 3 or 4 goalies of his generation and in all honesty, I believe that if Richter had the defense (and the hated and boring neutral zone trap) that that other guy from the west side of the Hudson had, he would have been considered the best of his generation. He will forever be in our hearts.
Now... THE KING! Henrik will go down as one of the best to ever play the game. Before winning the Vezina Trophy in 2012, he was nominated in each of his first three seasons, and is the only goaltender in NHL history to record 11 30-win seasons in his first 12 seasons. He holds the record for most wins by a European-born goaltender in the NHL as well. He won Olympic Gold for Sweden and unfortunately, the only thing missing from his trophy case is a Stanley Cup Championship. The KING never had stellar defenses in front of him and in fact the confidence the team had in him led them to play a looser brand of hockey that led to multiple odd man rushes against him. He basically carried those teams on his shoulders for well over a decade. IMO he is a Top 5 All Time goalie and certainly the best in the NHL to never win The Cup.
Henrik is the epitome of Class & Dignity. As good as he was a goalie he was an even better man. His charitable work is well renowned and he always makes time to talk to kids and sign autographs. He brought respect back to an organization that was bereft of it for a half dozen years. His character is beyond reproach.
He was (and is) the most respected guy in the locker room and his focus is legendary. He brought his work ethic out onto the ice for which all others followed and is the definition of hardest working guy in the room. His agility and his speed in the net were hallmarks of his career. His focus let him use every part of his body to make saves including his head. He was known for using his mask to make saves. He actually enjoys doing that. His talent and will to win made him the best goalie in the league over a 5-7 year period even though his defense left him naked time after time after time.
To show the character of the man, when the Rangers organization told him of their plans to blow it all up and rebuild he afforded the option to be traded to a contender and he opted to stay and stick it out. Some have gone the other route to get their cup with stars such as Ray Bourque and Domenik Hasek. He knew it would be rough but he wanted his legacy to be a one team player and to win with them.
Unfortunately, we have reached a point in his career where father time caught up with him and the game has changed to the point where it has now become a young man's game. Young players who would be relegated to third and fourth line duty "to learn" are now being pushed to prominent roles in their early years as the reality of a hard cap is forcing teams to work differently. The young stars are getting the money and the older players are now starting to get frozen out. The reality of the cap situation partnered with the reality that the Rangers seem to have their next star goalie and a more than capable backup and pipeline spelled the end of Hank's career with the Rangers. This is not a surprise but it still stings. It is hitting us all like a ton of bricks as the reality of it is hitting now as it becomes official. NOBODY WANTED TO SEE HANK'S RANGERS CAREER END THIS WAY AND IT HURTS. The man is legendary as a player and a man. But the pandemic has forced even more salary restrictions upon all teams including the Rangers and tough decisions have to made and if you took Hank out of the equation and asked every Rangers fan this one question you would have a unanimous decision and that question is "Would you rather get rid of a player a year too early or a year too late you know what your response would be.
Hank was the face of this franchise for over a decade and a half and he cherished those times as a leader, a role model, a competitor, a star and in all of our hearts A TRUE CHAMPION!
We Love you and we will miss you dearly. Good luck wherever your future takes you and I expect to see your face back in the Rangers organization soon in whatever role makes you happy.