Henrik Lundqvist’s Jersey Retirement Honors Him as an All-Time Ranger

For many, the hockey game between the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild on Friday night was a mere afterthought. Eighteen thousand people arrived at MSG, many (including myself) coming several hours before puck drop. All of them were there to honor ‘The King,’ as, after an illustrious 15-year career, Henrik Lundqvist’s jersey would be raised to where it belonged; in the Garden rafters.

A seventh-round selection in the 2000 NHL Draft, Lundqvist became an elite goaltender, all while playing under the bright lights of New York City. He played 887 regular-season games and 130 postseason contests, all while wearing the diagonal crest of the Rangers. With 459 wins, Lundqvist leaves the game as the winningest goaltender in Rangers and European history, placing sixth on the NHL’s all-time list.

Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers-Henrik Lundqvist's Jersey Retirement Honors Him as an All-Time Ranger
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

But his contributions on the ice pale in comparison to what he was able to do off of it. He was the backbone of the Rangers in goal and the community. Lundqvist contributed heavily to the Garden of Dreams Foundation and created his own charity, ‘The Henrik Lundqvist Foundation.’

From a late-round selection to the most outstanding goaltender in Rangers’ history, Lundqvist’s tenure with the Blueshirts inspired many. It allowed so many young fans, including myself, to fall in love with the Rangers and hockey. His reach is global, bringing Sweden a Gold Medal in the 2006 Olympic Games and winning championships with Frolunda HC.

After his run of dominance began, retiring Lundqvist’s jersey was a forgone conclusion. Still, on Friday, after two long years without Lundqvist appearing at MSG, it gave him and fans alike the chance to say thank you formally.

Lundqvist’s Ceremony Was First-Class

Blue carpet covered the ice at Madison Square Garden. On one end, chairs and a podium with a large number 30 sat, while on the other, the Rangers logo and Lundqvist’s awards were positioned. Several chants of Hen-rik, Hen-rik, broke out throughout the crowd as people filed in.

Interviews with former teammates, friends, celebrities, and opponents played on the jumbotron as the countdown to the ceremony was underway. Rangers’ fans were electric for what will ultimately be remembered as an otherwise small game in January. The atmosphere rivaled that of a game seven crowd, and all of it was to celebrate the career of Lundqvist.

Ranger legends Adam Graves, Mark Messier, Mike Richter, and Brian Leetch were all introduced, with Lundqvist’s wife, Therese, and their two daughters. Lundqvist’s parents and twin brother Joel were there on the ice as well, listening to the legendary voice of Sam Rosen host the fabulous event.

The fans were loud and chanting long before anyone graced the ice, but when Lundqvist emerged from the walkway which he led the Rangers down so many times before, the chants, cheers, and love was shown from the Garden faithful were like nothing I had seen before.

The Rangers gave the Swedish netminder numerous gifts, including a custom electric guitar painted by Dave Gunnarson (Lundqvist’s mask artist) and presented by John McEnroe. The King also received a custom Louis Vitton trunk, a bottle of wine paying homage to his wine lottery days, and a case of pucks, one from each of his 64 regular-season shutouts and 10 postseason shutouts.

Former Rangers’ goaltender and current ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes gave a heartfelt speech before the much-anticipated address from Lundqvist to the crowd. Although some fans tried to ruin the evening with their screeching in between every word the 15-year veteran spoke, Lundqvist eloquently gave his thanks to his family, friends, the Rangers, and the fans.

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All fanfare culminated in raising number 30 to the famed Garden ceiling, while Henrik’s name was chanted one last time by all in attendance. Before the game, former teammates and good friends Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad took part in the ceremonial faceoff.

It was a spectacular ceremony for a generational player. Lundqvist’s name is forever immortalized in the rafters in the mecca of the sports and entertainment world.

Lundqvist’s Legacy Has No Borders

The capacity crowd on Jan. 28 was a joy to be a part of. As I walked into Madison Square Garden that night, the atmosphere around the event seemed to be bigger than any game I had been to prior. After the ceremony, while everyone was walking around the concourse, I overheard my father and a gentleman from Sweden.

The man told us that over 300 people had flown in to witness the ceremony and partake in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the greatest Swedes ever to play honored in New York. Lundqvist was beloved by New Yorkers and idolized by Swedes. His goaltending prowess and friendly persona made all those who watched him cherish every moment that was witnessed.

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist-Henrik Lundqvist's Jersey Retirement Honors Him as an All-Time Ranger
New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

It was truly miraculous to see the energy and support shown to Lundqvist, especially after the way his career came to a close. He didn’t just come to New York; instead, he took over the city. As consistent as they come, Lundqvist was the sole reason the Rangers had a nearly decade-long run of playoff berths, three Conference Finals appearances, and one Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Lundqvist dominated the most significant moments, both internationally and in the NHL, handling himself with humility and grace throughout each miraculous moment. A fan favorite. A legend. A role model. Lundqvist is everything you could want in the face of your franchise, and Rangers’ fans loved him for it.

Once again, thank you, Hank, for all the memories and moments, and congratulations on having your number raised to the rafters.

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