This was as much a chance for the New York Rangers to retire Lundqvist’s No. 30, making him the 11th player in their history to have his number hanging in the rafters of the garden, as it was for the former goalie to finally have a chance to do it to say farewell to the fans who regularly chanted his name for 15 seasons (2005-20) at the only NHL arena he called home.
Lundqvist’s number was withdrawn ahead of New York’s 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Friday.
“I’m so happy for this moment with my family, my friends, but most of all I’m happy for the opportunity to say thank you,” Lundqvist said during his 12-minute speech. “They have supported me throughout my career. It was an amazing experience and it brought me so much joy and definitely played a big part in making my trip so special. Many Thanks.”
Video: Lundqvist addresses the Garden faithful on his evening
Lundqvist left Rangers after the 2019/20 season when the last season of his seven-year contract was bought out.
He signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals with intentions to play for them in the 2020-21 season, but a heart problem forced him to announce his retirement on August 20, 2021.
Lundqvist leads New York in wins (459), games played by a goalie (887), shutouts (64), and save percentage (.918) among players with more than 100 games played. He is also the Rangers’ Stanley Cup Playoffs leader in wins (61), games played by a goaltender (130), save percentage (.921), and shutouts (10). Lundqvist played his entire NHL career in shootout and no tie games.
He won the 2011-12 Vezina Trophy, was named the NHL’s top goaltender, and helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014 when they lost a best-of-7 series in five games to the Los Angeles Kings.
“When I look back on my 15 years here, my biggest satisfaction isn’t in the victories or the personal satisfaction, it’s the commitment I felt to the New York Rangers and the commitment they showed me,” Lundqvist said. “I keep coming back to a feeling. I am so thankful for everything this organization has given me.”
Video: Rangers honor the ‘King’ with a flag-raising
After he finished his speech, Lundqvist, his wife Therese and daughters Juli and Charlise walked down the blue carpet to the gate room to watch his No. 30 climb up the rafters. It joined Ed Giacomin’s #1; Brian Leetch’s No. 2; Harry Howell’s #3; Rod Gilbert’s No. 7; No. 9 by Adam Graves and Andy Bathgate; Mark Messiers and Vic Hadfields No. 11; Jean Ratelles No. 19; and Mike Richter’s No. 35.
Lundqvist was later joined on the carpet by Leetch, Messier, Richter and Graves. They stood together in their blue Rangers sweaters, taking photos and waving to the crowd. They walked away as Frank Sinatra’s “Theme from ‘New York, New York'” blared through the arena.
“Enjoy the ride playing for the New York Rangers and playing in the greatest city on earth,” Lundqvist said, addressing the current Rangers during his speech. “This experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. Many Thanks. Thank you. Thank you.”
Earlier, fans would start chanting “Hen-rik, Henrik, Henrik” minutes before the lights went down to mark the beginning of the ceremony. The garden lit up with the LED wristbands that were left at each seat for the fans.
The Rangers players, each in a Lundqvist jersey, and the Wild players were all seated on or in front of their benches.
Richter began the celebrations by welcoming Lundqvist to the Rangers players’ fraternity to retire her jersey number.
“I haven’t seen many goalies in my life come out on the rink and give his team a chance to win like this guy did,” Richter said earlier on Friday. “Nobody asked more of themselves than Hank, and nobody delivered more than he did.”
Video: Henrik Lundqvist looks back on his 15-year career
Lundqvist, selected by New York in the seventh round (No. 205) of the 2000 NHL Draft, saw his first game at the Garden in April 2001.
Rangers general manager and president Glen Sather said he knew Lundqvist’s future was in New York after watching him play for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2004.
“I was there with an agent named Paul Theofanous and I said, ‘This is next,'” Sather said Friday. “I had only seen one game. There was something about him, the way he electrified the crowd, the way he acted, the way he behaved. … He’s the quintessential New York Ranger.”
Longtime Rangers broadcaster Sam Rosen acted as moderator for the ceremony. He introduced Lundqvist, who walked through the tunnel from the home dressing room to the ice.
Lundqvist waved to the crowd as they sang “Hen-rik, Henrik, Henrik.”
Rosen began reading Lundqvist’s biography, telling the story when his twin brother Joel raised his arm to volunteer to support him as a goalkeeper when they were young children living in Are, Sweden.
Joel was among the guests of honor on the ice, including Lundqvist’s parents, Peter and Eva; Sister Gabriella; his wife and children; and Leetch, Messier, Graves and Richter.
“He was the only goaltender in NHL history to have 30 wins in each of his first seven seasons,” Rosen said. “He was the fastest in NHL history to have 400 wins (727 games). And he currently holds the record for most wins by a European-born goaltender in NHL history.”
Video: Lundqvist drops the puck after his #30 is lifted
Tennis legend John McEnroe, a close friend of Lundqvist, gave him an electric guitar from Hagstrom Guitars in Sweden, hand-painted with the former goalkeeper’s image and number by artist David Gunnarsson, who used to paint Lundqvist’s masks.
Rangers head equipment manager Acacio Marques gave Lundqvist a case containing 74 pucks, one from each of his NHL shutouts. Lundqvist hugged Marques and wiped tears from his eyes.
New York substitute captains Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Jacob Oven, Ryan Strome and Barclay Goodrow presented him with three special Vineyard 36 wine bottles in a case signed by members of the current team.
“It’s just honest [stinks] that we couldn’t end the evening any better,” Zibanejad said after the game, “especially with the way it started, the whole ceremony, seeing him, seeing his family and just really listening to that crowd. It was a night I will never forget. I’m grateful that I got to be a part of it. He deserves everything. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Messier, Graves, Leetch and Richter unveiled a bespoke Louis Vuitton suitcase bearing the Lundqvist number.
“I don’t think you’ll ever find anyone in Rangers history who’s that New York in every way, in the community, the web, their competitions, their hunger, their clothes, everything,” Graves said earlier. “If you’re talking about an organization that’s been around for almost 100 years and has representation and continues to have representation, Hank certainly doesn’t get any better than it has for the last 15 years.”
Former goalkeeper Kevin Weekes, Lundqvist’s teammate from 2005 to 2007, perhaps summed up the impact the honoree made in New York at the end of his speech during the ceremony.
“All the greats play in New York, all the greats play in the Garden, but few of them have played and dominated here like you have,” Weekes said. “Next stop, the Hockey Hall of Fame.”