By Ian Oland
Capitals legend Henrik Lundqvist had his jersey retired by the New York Rangers on Friday ahead of the team’s game against the Minnesota Wild. The Rangers said Lundqvist would receive the honor two hours after he officially announced his retirement on August 20.
Lundqvist became the eleventh Rangers player in franchise history to have his jersey retired. Hank joined Ed Giacomin’s no. 1, Brian Leetch’s no. 2, Harry Howell’s no. 3, Rod Gilbert’s no. 7, Andy Bathgate’s no. 9, Adam Graves’ no. 9, Vic Hadfield’s no. 11, Mark Messier’s no. 11, Jean Ratelle’s no. 19, and Mike Richter’s no. 35 up in the rafters.
“April 2001 – the first time I set foot in [Madison Square Garden],” Lundqvist said during his speech. “I was drafted the year before. I was here to watch get a glimpse to play in the NHL and be a New York Ranger. I remember I left with a lot in my mind. This place both scared me and inspired me at the same time. People were so passionate, so intense. They cared about the team, the game. The competitor in me absolutely loved it.”
Lundqvist would go on to post a 459-310-96 record with a .918 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against average during his 15-year career in New York.
The most emotional part of Lundqvist’s speech came towards the end when he spoke about his “journey.”
The outcomes of our games had a huge impact on my life. A win, a smile and the great energy I felt, could not be mistaken. A loss, it felt like the world was about to end. That roller coaster of emotions is something I’ll never forget. Probably not my wife either. (She nods garnering a huge laugh and cheer from the crowd.) The highest were high and the lows were low and there was not much in-between. And that’s how I chose to live my life the last 20 years and 15 in New York. It never really changed.
Playing well to help the team win was so important to me. And sometimes I think about, was it a little extreme? Was it healthy? Well, only when we were winning – then it was healthy. But I must say, that contrast I felt between winning and losing really pushed me throughout my career. The joy versus the pain was part of my journey. And because it hurt so much to lose, it made it so much sweeter to win.
The pursuit of becoming the best was always part of my journey. Enough to refer to my career to as my journey because to me that’s what it was. Eventually, so much excitement, uncertainty and change. When I look back at my 15 years here, what gives me the most satisfaction is not the wins or the personal recognition, but it is really the commitment. The commitment I felt for the New York Rangers and the commitment they showed me for so long.
[loud HEN-RIK chant breaks out]
I’m so happy to get this moment with my family, my friends. But most of all, I’m so happy to have an opportunity to say thank you. Thank you to all the Rangers fans here and around the city. You have supported me throughout my career and [chokes up] it’s been an amazing experience and it has given me so much joy. It definitely played a huge part in my journey so thank you.
While I reflect on my time here in New York, everything I experienced, the people I met, and what the game has given me, I keep coming back to one feeling: gratitude. I feel so grateful for everything this organization has given me, supporting me and my family.
To the current New York Rangers team, it’s been amazing to watch you guys play this year. I just want to say enjoy the ride, playing for the New York Rangers and the greatest city in the world. This experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Lundqvist was joined on the ice by his family, friends, former Rangers greats, and the entire current Rangers team, who filled the entire bench and another row on the ice. After making his speech, Lundqvist walked down to the other end of the arena with his wife and two daughters to watch his jersey be raised.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for. pic.twitter.com/oHu95GTy7w
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 29, 2022
Start spreading the news. #30Forever pic.twitter.com/NtadjiNTvR
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 29, 2022
During the ceremony, Lundqvist received a guitar, a plaque with all his milestone pucks, and a retirement jersey.
Before puck drop, every Rangers player wore number 30 jerseys during warmups in honor of Hank’s honor.
Lundqvist spoke to the media earlier in the day and said he was “proud” to play for the Rangers his entire career. After being bought out by the team, he signed with Washington but never played due to health issues.
“The heart said no,” Lundqvist said.
Headline photo: @NYRangers/Twitter
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