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Friday, November 20, 2009

New York Press One on One with Henrik Lundqvist (2006)

The 25-year-old, second-year New York Rangers goaltending sensation, who finished third last season in voting for the Vezina Trophy (the NHL’s best goaltender award), set the Rangers rookie goaltending wins record (30, the most since 1942) and snagged a gold medal for Sweden at the 2006 Olympics, told New York Press that being beautiful means little to him, playing ABBA after a win means a lot to his team and being a goalie means being a little lonely.

NY PRESS: Last year you were one of People magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People in the World.” How does that make you feel considering that you spend 99 percent of your professional life wearing a mask?

Henrik Lundqvist: I think the People magazine was a fun thing, but it was more for people who were, how do you say it, passing the time. I don’t know if I really fit. I had a good year on the ice. Obviously, without a facemask, I would be in the hospital right now.

Your identical twin brother, Joel, plays in the Dallas Stars organization. Once you made the list shouldn’t they have included him?
(laughs) Well, we have different styles. That’s for sure. Maybe you can ask the jury about that.

With Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal and you, there are so many big NHL stars that are 25 and under. How often do you guys get together and talk about the future of the league?

Not too much. The schedule is so busy we don’t have time to meet other players. I met the other guys at an awards banquet after last season, but it was just to say “hi” and a quick talk.

In order to promote this league, why is it so important for fans to see NHL players with their helmets and masks off?

I think it’s always good if you can reach out there and find new fans. I know they’re talking about doing shootouts without the helmets. That’s a good idea. It’s hard for people to recognize hockey players and how they look. A thing like that might be helpful.

Lots of people blame owner James L. Dolan for the Knicks’ troubles; why don’t the same people give him a little credit for the Rangers turnaround?

That’s a good question. I don’t know who you should blame when things are going bad for a team. Hopefully, this year the Knicks do better and people might be more satisfied with the team. Dolan, he’s a great guy.

Many people thought New York Islanders owner Charles Wang was crazy when he signed goalie Rick DiPietro to an historic 15-year, $67.5 million contract. What’s so crazy about that?

It’s a long time, especially in sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen with injuries. It’s hard to tell how good you’ll be in 10 years, let alone 15. I mean it’s really good for DiPietro. He’s a great goaltender. It’s just that it was really surprising that anyone was able to sign a contract like that.

Back in Frolunda, Sweden, you played guitar in a rock band?

The name of the band was Box Play. We only played covers. It was Swedish rock. We were not good at all. It was taken out of proportion when I got over here. I love music. It takes your energy away from hockey. There’s so much hockey going on all the time—games, practices—so it’s fun to have something else to do. It makes you relax.

You’ve played hockey in arenas all over the world. What’s so special about Madison Square Garden?

I think it’s the history. The crowd is so intense. There’s just some buildings, when you play in them, you feel the difference. It’s in the bricks.

What about Rangers fans is different than other hockey fans?
In my experience, they are very, um, how would you say, “excited.” They are really into the team and how things are going, and they really want to know everything. It’s hard to explain but [the Rangers] are obviously a very important thing to a lot of people.

That doesn’t scare you at all?

I mean, of course it comes with pressure, too. We want to perform well. So it helps you put a lot of pressure on yourself to achieve.

In baseball, some years they say it’s a pitcher’s league and other years a hitter’s league. Is the NHL a goalie’s league?

I think it might have been before the lockout. But with the new rules, it has changed. There’s a lot more goals scored right now. I say it’s a “team game league” now. It used to be very important to have lot of star players. Now it’s more important to have a very solid, four-line team.

Sometimes, are you just dying to bust out of the net, skate the full length of ice and score a goal?

Not really. The feeling to make a good save for the team, that’s the feeling I like. I don’t mind scoring, though. That could be a lot of fun. But I’m not allowed to cross the red line, so I’d have to do it from my own end.

Last year, you privately struggled with migraine headaches. Doctors said it came from grinding your teeth at night. How’s that coming along?

I had some problems over the summer, but when I got back here, I got some medication. It feels really good now. It feels good to be 100 percent out on the ice. When you have something that disturbs you, it’s hard to perform your best.

Is it lonely being a goalie?

(long pause) It’s a strange position. Not strange, but it’s very different. It’s almost like you’re on your own. Yes, like you’re lonely. You still feel support from your teammates, but when you’re out there, you’re kind of doing your own thing. You’re playing your own game. A lot of guys depend on you. Sure, you feel their support, yet, as I said, you’re out there on your own. But I like it. That’s why I’m a goalie.

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