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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How Henrik Lundqvist Became a Modern Day Joe Namath


In the rink, Henrik Lundqvist, the Swedish-born goaltender for the New York Rangers, is a hulking presence, athletically and aggressively swatting away pucks with his stick, pads, skates and, yes, sometimes even his mask. On a somewhat offensively challenged team, the 31-year-old–known as “King Henrik” to local fans–keeps the Rangers competitive on most nights with his “butterfly” style of goaltending, which has earned him an Olympic gold medal (for Sweden in the 2006 Turin games), seven straight team Most Valuable Player awards and the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s top goaltender, in 2012.

Off the ice, though, Lundqvist–slim and possessed of blue eyes, a touch of Viggo Mortensen scruff and a hair-trigger grin–doesn’t quite fit the popular notion of how a hockey player is supposed to comport himself. He has taken well to the various cultural diversions of New York City, where he has now lived for eight years. (He and his wife and one-year-old daughter have an apartment not far from Madison Square Garden.) “What I love about the city is that it’s the opposite of the intense focus of a hockey game,” he says. Two years ago, he and a group of friends opened Tiny’s & The Bar Upstairs, a restaurant in Tribeca. He has also jammed on the guitar with fellow New York sports legend John McEnroe.

But he’s made his biggest mark off the ice in the fashion world, assuming a throne once occupied by Joe Namath and Walt Frazier. He’s attended fashion shows and models for his own Crown Collection, a clothing line that supports the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a charity for special-needs children. Of his own fashion sense, Lundqvist says it took time to develop: “I made a lot of mistakes along the way. “His fashion popularity, he says, is easy to explain. “When you’re a hockey player, if you make any effort to dress nicely, you, um, stand out a bit.”

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