Henrik Lundqvist, the legendary veteran of 887 regular season and 130 postseason games, all with the New York Rangers, announced his retirement from professional hockey in a series of social media posts on Friday morning.
“King Henrik’s” Legendary Career
Lundqvist retires a strong candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Drafted in the 7th round, 205th overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, he worked his way into regular NHL playing time, debuting during the 2005-06 season with 30 wins in 53 games played. He was added to the All-Rookie team, finishing fourth in Calder Trophy voting and third in Vezina Trophy voting. From there, there was no stopping him: Lundqvist played in 70-plus games each of the next four seasons, receiving Vezina Trophy votes each time.
Lundqvist became synonymous with the Rangers and ultimately grew into the face of their franchise. Arguably his best season came in 2011-12. In 62 starts, he went 39-18-5, with a .930 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.97 goals-against average (GAA), to go along with eight shutouts. Those numbers earned him his first and only Vezina Trophy victory, the lone piece of silverware to honor his incredible NHL career.
Lundqvist also sparkled during a celebrated international career, in which he won the coveted Olympic Gold Medal in 2006 with Team Sweden. He would help Sweden take silver in 2014 as well. At the World Championships, he took home silver in 2003 and 2004 and capped off his international career with gold in 2017.
Over an NHL career that spanned 15 seasons, Lundqvist played in 887 games with a .918 SV% and a 2.43 GAA, along with 183.4 goals saved above average (GSAA). His 64 shutouts rank 17th all-time, and his 459 wins rank sixth. Only seven goalies played more NHL games than Lundqvist, but none of the others did it with only one team. The only demerit on his record is the lack of a Stanley Cup Championship. The Rangers only reached the Cup Final once during his career, in the 2013-14 season. But his career playoff numbers are very strong, with 117 starts, a .921 SV% and a 2.30 GAA, and 10 playoffs shutouts. Lundqvist’s time with the Rangers came to an end after the 2019-20 season, when he signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals. Unfortunately, that tenure wasn’t to be.
Medical Emergency and Retirement
Shortly before the 2020-21 season, which he was set to play with the Capitals, Lundqvist announced that his physicians had discovered a serious heart condition that would keep him out of the season. In fact, the condition required open heart surgery, which he received early in January. That caused him to miss the entirety of the 2020-21 season, and never play a game for the Capitals.
Even so, the Swedish legend worked his way towards a return in what would have been his age-40 season. But, in typically understated fashion, Lundqvist announced his retirement through social media posts on Twitter and Instagram in both Swedish and English. He thanked his fans, Swedish Hockey, and the NHL, saying “thank you to the game of hockey and its fans. You gave my life purpose and I have loved every single minute of it!” Fans around the hockey world paid tribute to the King and echoed his sentiments right back to him.
Hall of Fame Future
Despite the lack of success in the playoffs, most would admit Lundqvist is a future Hockey Hall of Fame member. What his career will be outside of that remains to be seen. But there is no question: hockey will always have a place for King Henrik as long as he wants one there. He was one of the game’s greatest players, but more importantly, he remains one of the game’s greatest representatives both on and off the ice.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.