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Friday, May 21, 2010

Henrik Lundqvist is the King of New York


It’s only appropriate that twenty-eight year old Henrik Lundqvist, the starting all-star goaltender for the New York Rangers seems to live a life worthy of a King. Olympic Gold Medal? Check. Three-time Vezina Trophy finalist for the N.H.L’s top goaltender? Check. Six-year $41.25 million contract? Check. New York City duplex penthouse? Check. Own a Maserati and a Lamborghini? Check. Not to mention the fact that he is beloved by both his teammates and fans all around the world, especially in Sweden where he has a “Rock Star” status. People Magazine even included him in its 100 Most Beautiful People issue in 2006. It’s no wonder this Are, Sweden native’s nickname is “King Henrik.” And it only took him four games in the N.H.L to earn it.

Now in his fifth season with the Rangers, Henrik was embraced by the hard to please New York fan base from the very beginning. As a rookie with the Rangers in 2005, (he had already been playing professional hockey in Sweden for five years, where he won numerous awards and championships prior to coming to New York) he immediately bonded with the fans when he proceeded to wave to them during a game as a sign of appreciation for the chanting of his name. That kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. In fact, it was something many people had never seen before. He also recorded the very first shutout of his career only a week after his debut in the league. It is rare to find an athlete who can come to New York and perform as well as he did both on and off the ice at such a young age, (he made his debut at twenty-three.) He can very well be considered the Derek Jeter of the Rangers. He has the athletic skills, the durability, the charisma, the good looks, and the affable easy-going personality that not only makes him a fan-favorite, but makes him popular with the media as well. In addition to People magazine, he has appeared in both Gotham Magazine and Italian Vogue, as well as numerous Swedish magazine such as, Café and King Magazines.

An intense competitor on the ice, off the ice, you’re likely to meet a much calmer, more laid -back Henrik who enjoys strumming on the guitar in the guest room of his new duplex penthouse that he shares with his girlfriend Therese in Hell’s Kitchen. It is there that he goes to relax and get away from hockey while taking in the spectacular view of his favorite city.

This season, Lundqvist set two quite impressive records. He became the first goalie in N.H.L history to record 30 or more wins in his first five seasons in the league. He also became the first Rangers goaltender in team history to have five straight 30-win seasons. In addition to those records, he became the first player in New York Rangers history to be voted team M.V.P by the Professional Hockey Writers Association for the fourth consecutive year. When you hear about that record it certainly makes you wonder why he was never nominated for the Hart Trophy, which is the N.H.L’s most valuable player award. Many people, including fans, writers and assorted members of the media, General Managers and coaches around the league, will tell you that the New York Rangers success revolves around Henrik.

Many people believe that the only reason the Rangers ever qualified for the playoffs the last five seasons is because of Henrik. I would have to agree with that sentiment. This year’s team more than any other in the past, would have been nothing without Henrik Lundqvist. He certainly deserved to be the most valuable player of the team for the past four seasons. No one has meant more to the Rangers than he has. Every game he plays in he gives the Rangers a chance to win, even with the mediocre talent he has been surrounded with as of late.

Just imagine if you were to take Henrik out of the Rangers line-up. The Rangers do not even have a stable back-up goaltender. Two rookies were called up to back-up Lundqvist during the course of this season before the Rangers picked up Alex Auld through waivers. It didn’t matter though; the Rangers were desperately fighting for a playoff spot so Henrik still got the majority of starts this year. He did his part and led the Rangers to within one win of the playoffs, unfortunately the final game came down to a shootout and ultimately, the Rangers let him down by failing to score enough goals to win it. It’s the first year of Lundqvist’s entire professional career, both in Sweden and in the N.H.L that he did not make the playoffs. This absolutely devastated the fiercely competitive Lundqvist, who once again showed that he has become the leader of the team by calling out his future teammates by stating that anyone who is in the Rangers locker room next season must understand that they play to win and to make the playoffs every year with the ultimate goal being to win the Stanley Cup.

He had taken on a larger leadership role this season, making him somewhat of an “unofficial” captain of the team. Earlier this season, when the Rangers were going through a terrible losing streak the player who called a players only meeting before a game vs. the rival New York Islanders and then did most of the speaking during the meeting- was none other than Henrik Lundqvist. Not the Rangers captain Chris Drury. The Rangers losing streak ended that night. You can credit Lundqvist for that; it might have been his biggest save of the season, as the Rangers were spiraling downward fast. No doubt about it, if goalies were legally allowed to become captains in the N.H.L, Henrik Lundqvist would surely be the captain of the New York Rangers, much like fellow goaltender Martin Brodeur would be the captain of his team, the Rangers cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils. He means that much to them. Without him in the line-up the Rangers surely would suffer immensely. The Rangers have always had a weak defense, thus making their dependency on Lundqvist even more important. Put Lundqvist on a team like the Washington Capitals, the Detriot Red Wings, or the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he very well may already be a multiple Stanley Cup winner. He already is an Olympic Gold medalist from the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy where he was an essential element in Team Sweden’s (Tre Kroner) win over the best players in the world. His outstanding play has been consistent every year of his career. Hopefully, he eventually will be rewarded for all his hard work with both the Hart Trophy (or Vezina) and the Stanley Cup. He certainly deserves it. After all, he is a King.

( Written by me for one of my classes, all feedback is welcome)

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