SI Vault
April 16, 2012
Raised in a hamlet of 800, Henrik Lundqvist has embraced—and been embraced by—a city of eight million. Just imagine if the Swedish goalie helps the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup in 18 years
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April 16, 2012

The King Of New York

Raised in a hamlet of 800, Henrik Lundqvist has embraced—and been embraced by—a city of eight million. Just imagine if the Swedish goalie helps the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup in 18 years

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The assimilation to life in New York wasn't easy for Lundqvist. As the Rangers requested of all their young players, he lived outside the city, in White Plains, N.Y., during his rookie season with his future wife, Therese. "It was really isolating," says Lundqvist, whose first purchases in New York were a guitar and a harmonica. "A few times I asked myself if I had really made the right choice to come over."

Once he moved to Manhattan in the summer of '06, Lundqvist reveled in the city's varied cultural menu of shows, movies, restaurants and side streets. "I can't see him as, say, a Calgary Flame," says Rangers center Mike Rupp. "It just wouldn't look right." Lundqvist and Therese, who is expecting the couple's first child this summer, live in Manhattan 10 months a year. His accent is unmistakably Nordic, but his vibe is less Malmö than SoHo. "I'm more comfortable being recognized here than in Sweden," he says, "because the same people who say hi today know they will see somebody more interesting than me tomorrow. I just love the passion here. Every day you see people who are striving for something that's important to them." Two and a half years ago, when contractors remodeling the Lundqvists' Hell's Kitchen apartment dragged their work into training camp, a neighbor in the building offered the couple a spare bedroom for a few days. They wound up staying until the stalled project finally finished two months later. "Those are my neighbors," Lundqvist says. "That's my New York."

Earlier this winter, Lundqvist noticed a parrot among the pigeons perched on his balcony. "He looked cold, so we took him inside, sat him on our shoulders and let him sleep in the guest room," Lundqvist says. "The next day this woman downstairs was crying about her missing parrot she'd had for 13 years, and Therese gave her the good news."

Lundqvist has modeled for photo spreads in Vogue, made an apple dessert on The Martha Stewart Show and made a cameo appearance on Letterman to help with the Top Ten list. ("Who can concentrate on hockey when Jennifer Aniston still hasn't found love?") He is part owner of a cozy and cool restaurant in TriBeCa called Tiny's & the Bar Upstairs. In 2006, PEOPLE named him one of its 100 Most Beautiful People, though his twin missed the list. "Probably 101," Henrik says. Last year, the Garden crowd began razzing teen idol Justin Bieber when his face appeared on the JumboTron while he was sitting courtside at a Knicks game. The jeering ceased, however, when the camera panned to Lundqvist in the next seat. At a benefit concert this year, Lundqvist played guitar alongside John McEnroe in a band called The Noise Upstairs. The event raised more than $48,000 for the Garden of Dreams, which Lundqvist vigorously supports.

Once he had established himself on the ice, Lundqvist resolved to serve his new community and latched onto the Garden of Dreams, the brainchild of the MSG brass. In 2009 he became its chief spokesman. Lundqvist has hosted skate parties after Rangers practices in Tarrytown, N.Y., munched popcorn at Radio City Music Hall with a group he took to the Christmas show, sat in fire trucks with children of 9/11 victims, hosted museum tours and dealt blackjack at casino night. He sold his mask from January's Winter Classic for $35,000 and launched an apparel line for the foundation. His efforts this season have raised more than $100,000.

He traces his sense of duty back to 2002--03, his third season with Frolunda. Lundqvist had visited a 10-year-old boy afflicted with terminal cancer in a Göteborg hospital. He remembers the boy, who passed away later the same week, struggling to brighten up for his visit. A few days later Lundqvist received a letter from the boy's mother telling him that he had at least allowed her son to die happy, which was the most they could have asked. "It kind of changed me," he says. "We have this great life, and so fast it can change. It's not that I didn't know that before, but you just appreciate every moment."

Lundqvist has flipped the fortunes of Brodeur, the alltime wins leader, who has never sought the celebrity his résumé warranted. Brodeur once told SI he thought Lundqvist's style was "weird," and even his compliments are sometimes freighted with sarcasm. After Lundqvist shut out the Devils on Feb. 27, Brodeur remarked, "It's a nice matchup to play against the top goalie in the league. He's a guy who's put on a pedestal for a reason." Brodeur has cause for envy. Before Lundqvist arrived, Brodeur once played 23 straight games without a loss against New York. Today, Lundqvist has the best mark against Brodeur (23-6-5) of any netminder.

Lundqvist is a butterfly goaltender who sets up far back in his crease and relies on his own technique more than his knowledge of shooters' tendencies. To goalies who like to scramble and sprawl—like Brodeur—butterfly practitioners who minimize their movements are seen as blockers, preferring to let pucks hit them rather than proactively make a save. It's an unfair assessment.

Lundqvist's record in shootouts, an apt barometer of goaltending skill, is a robust 41--27. His .763 save percentage in 262 shootout attempts is the highest ever among goalies who have faced at least 125 shots. Lundqvist's penchant for turning back penalty shots led to his save of the season, a pad stop on Flyers winger Danny Briere with 19.6 seconds left in the Winter Classic. During the game, microphones from HBO, which was recording the players for 24/7, caught Philly sniper Claude Giroux pleading, "Henrik, let me score one tonight. Just one."

His reflexes and his post-to-post coverage are excellent. His wide, knock-kneed stance, almost an upside-down V, makes him look bigger than his 6'1" frame even as he crouches, and because he interprets plays so efficiently, he rarely overcompensates for a deke or lateral pass. "I've always stood really low," Lundqvist says. "Now if the play isn't right in front of me, I try to be more upright." Even in recent weeks, he's adjusted his stance to help him make saves from more stable positions instead of in motion.

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