Goaltender refreshed after summer in Sweden
Three years ago, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist came to his first Rangers training camp with only an outside shot at making the team. Three Vezina Trophy nominations later, Lundqvist is one of the cornerstones of the Rangers and certainly knows what is expected of him during the team’s upcoming camp.
Lundqvist arrived at the Madison Square Garden Training Center well in advance of camp to work out and skate with his Rangers teammates. After practice on Thursday, shortly before heading into the city for an appearance at Fashion Week’s Tommy Hilfiger show, he sat down with newyorkrangers.com for an informal chat about his off-season experience and the season to come.
Question: Shortly after you appeared at the NHL Awards event in June, you went back to Sweden for the rest of the summer. How was your time there?
Lundqvist: Well, I had a great summer. I went back to Sweden for two months and just spent some time with family and friends. I also went to Italy for a couple of days. Most of the time I spent on (Sweden’s) West Coast and just relaxed and had a really good time.
Question: You're obviously a very well-known athlete in your home country. Do you find you’re recognized even more when you’re back there.
Lundqvist: Yeah, there's a big difference. People recognize me more, that's for sure. It's fun to come home and hear how people appreciate what you do and they recognize how well you've done over the last couple of years. It's always fun, people say congrats and you did very well; it's always fun to hear. But in the long run it's relaxing to be here (in New York) and not as many people recognize you in public. ... I played five years in Sweden. Even though they write about the NHL, you're more in the media when you play over there than here because of the time difference and stuff like that. It's good to relax and walk around here (New York) and just live a normal life.
Question: On that subject, did you talk to any people in Sweden who said they might come to see the Rangers play the regular-season opener in Prague?
Lundqvist: Sweden is actually going to host one NHL game, too. Pittsburgh is going to play against Ottawa. That's big for them, but a lot of people are not going to be able to watch that game in person. As far as the Prague game, you know, I think there's not that many Swedes living down there. If they want to watch an NHL game, they'll probably try to go to Stockholm and watch Ottawa-Pittsburgh.
Question: What does it mean for the Rangers to be playing NHL games on the European continent?
Lundqvist: I think it's good for the game and for the league. We have a lot of fans in Europe. With the time difference in the U.S., sometimes it's hard to follow it. But I mean now you can pretty much watch every NHL game. When I was growing up, you couldn't watch the games that much. So, it's definitely good.
Question: Will the games in Prague be emotional for you personally because you’ll playing in Europe?
Lundqvist: Well, maybe it would be if I played in my home in Sweden, especially in Gothenburg. Playing in Prague I think it's going to be fun, but it's not going to be the same feeling. ... To have a lot of friends in the stands and to play in front of them. I mean for me, if we were to go to Gothenburg and play in the arena where I played for seven years and had a special relationship with the fans, that would be really different. I'm really looking forward to going to Prague to play. It's going to be special, but I can't compare it to playing at home.
Question: When you're over there and away from hockey for a few months like this, do you really miss the game? Do you miss the team and do you think about how you can't wait to get back?
Lundqvist: Yeah, you know, the first couple of weeks (after the season) you're just happy to have some time off and then you start working out and then the last couple of weeks you spend really just wanting to come back to New York and start practicing. I was really excited to come back here because I felt like I came back home.
Question: What did you think when you heard that Markus Naslund would be joining the Rangers? How much have you played with him for Team Sweden in the past?
Lundqvist: Well, I haven't played that much with Markus. I know he's a good guy and a good player, obviously.
Question: He would have been on the 2006 Swedish Olympic team with you, but he missed those Olympics due to an injury. Were there other big tournaments you remember having him as a teammate?
Lundqvist: I think I played only one tournament on a team with him. The World Cup in 2004.
Question: There are other Rangers newcomers along with Naslund. What are your thoughts on all the roster additions as you head into a new season?
Lundqvist: This summer was very exciting. You don't know how it's going to look in the end, but a lot of guys are excited right now to see where it's going.