By Ian Oland
Henrik Lundqvist is calling it a career after a heart condition caused him to miss the entire 2020-21 season.
Lundqvist announced his retirement during a press conference at Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden. The barn is where Lundqvist watched his first professional hockey game as a five-year-old and is the home to Frölunda HC – the team Lundqvist would star with as a teenager before moving on to the NHL during the 2005-06 season.
The King ends his career never having played a game for the Washington Capitals. He leaves the game with 459 wins, the sixth-most victories in NHL history and the most among goalies who played every game of their career with one team (New York Rangers).
Lundqvist posted a long note on his social media accounts at 9 AM (EST), saying he was “extremely grateful for what hockey has brought me and taught me in life.”
His note reads:
For the last 30 years, I have devoted my life to the game of hockey…and now it’s time to walk away from the game I love and begin a new chapter. The future excites me. I’ve met so many amazing people over the years that will help to guide and inspire me in my new journey.
There are many things I love about this game: From the excitement I felt as an 8-year old at my first practice to the 15 years of butterflies I had every time I took the ice in the greatest city in the world. I’m extremely grateful for what hockey has brought me and taught me in life. These lessons will never leave me.
Thank you to all the coaches and players that helped me throughout my career.
Thank you to Swedish hockey! From growing up and playing in Sweden to ultimately representing my country on the world stage – These are some of my proudest moments.
Thank you @nyrangers and New York City. I’m a born Swede but I’ll always feel like a New Yorker thanks to you.
Thank you @NHL. This league was everything I dreamed of and more.
Lastly, thank you to the game of hockey and its fans! You gave my life purpose and I have loved every single minute of it!
Thank you all❤️
Here are his posts on Twitter and Instagram.
— Henrik Lundqvist (@hlundqvist35) August 20, 2021
Lundqvist, a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer, signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Capitals last October after being bought out by the New York Rangers. Weeks after doing so, Lundqvist learned that a heart condition that he had been managing throughout his career had gotten worse, forcing to him undergo open-heart surgery in January.
“It breaks my heart (literally) to share this news: I will not be joining the Capitals this upcoming season,” Lundqvist said. “After many weeks of tests and conversations with specialists around the country, it’s been determined that a heart condition will prevent me from taking the ice. Together, we have decided that the risk of playing before remedying my condition is too high, so I will spend the coming months figuring out the best course of action.
Lundqvist became active again quickly after surgery though, running for the first time on February 17 and returing to the ice a week later – an incredible 47 days after surgery.
The best type of workday! 😃 pic.twitter.com/2tWlS1iOmO
— Henrik Lundqvist (@hlundqvist35) February 23, 2021
The King attempted to return to the Capitals for their playoff run but ultimately was shut down by doctors when it was revealed he had inflammation around his heart. Vitek Vanecek ended up getting a majority of the starts during the season with Lundqvist sidelined and Ilya Samsonov stuck in COVID protocol twice.
Lundqvist had recently resumed light workouts around the beginning of July and appeared to determine to come back next season.
Not sure how many times I’ve been sitting here, tying and untying the pads over the years, 15.000? I’m just guessing.. Back at it, we’ll see what happens 🙂 pic.twitter.com/9uGubSKYnl
— Henrik Lundqvist (@hlundqvist35) August 10, 2021
“We’ve checked in with him regularly,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said recently on DC101’s Elliot in the Morning. “He’s still going through the process of getting cleared for his condition. I think the intention is he’d like to play, but medically he has to go through some stuff to be able to get clearance to play. We’ll monitor that as it goes farther.”
Ultimately, Lundqvist could not get that clearance.
“When [this] summer started, my plan was still to come back,” Lundqvist said to the New York Post. “I started working out again and was skating, but without any contact. But there were some setbacks. Too much exertion caused some chest pain.
“I was hoping I would be 100 percent by this time. But I was told that inflammation takes a long time to correct and with medication I might be out of the woods, but it could be another full year before I would be 100 percent.”
Lundqvist’s career ends with most of the Rangers’ major franchise records in goal: games played (887), wins (459), goals against average (2.43), save percentage (0.918), shutouts (64), and points (27).
Lundqvist made one appearance in the Stanley Cup Final (2014), but his Rangers lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. Lundqvist will go down as one of the greatest goaltenders of all time to never raise Lord Stanley’s Cup.
From everyone at RMNB, thanks for everything, Hank, and good luck in retirement. You’ll always be a Capitals legend to us.
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