Rangers greats recognize Henrik Lundqvist’s legendary qualities

by 24USATVJan. 29, 2022, 6:01 a.m. 18
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Glen Sather traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden, during the 2004 season to watch Henrik Lundqvist play. There was something special about the goaltender, Sather, who was then the Rangers general manager, said.

Frölunda, Lundqvist’s team, won the game. But that was not what caught Sather’s attention.

“The way he electrified the crowd,” Sather said Friday. “The way he was poised, the way he conducted himself.”

Afterwards, Sather, Lundqvist and Paul Theofanous, an agent, went out to dinner. Lundqvist didn’t use his local celebrity to skip the line, instead standing outside for 20 minutes.

“I was so nervous,” Lundqvist, who had been drafted by the Rangers in 2000, said. “I wanted to show strength and confidence, and I was hoping that [Sather] would believe in me.”

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On Friday, Sather was on a dais next to Lundqvist celebrating a storied career before the goaltender’s No. 30 was raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters that night.

“It’s been so fun to come over here and get to know you and create the relationship we have today,” Lundqvist told Sather.

Rangers legends Mike Richter and Adam Graves, also in attendance, were asked to ponder whether Lundqvist is the best Ranger of all-time. The sense Sather had all those years ago was correct, more than he could have realized.

“Certainly, it’s hard to argue with his body of work,” Graves said. “Nobody has worn that jersey, or will wear that jersey on and off the ice, like Hank has.”

Neither Richter nor Graves played with Lundqvist, but both remembered watching him play over the years. They discussed how impressed they were with his preparation, his attitude. It wasn’t just Lundqvist’s ability, Richter said, although that was quite good.

“You get a sense for how this guy approaches the game,” Richter said. “That’s what puts some distance between an average player and a special player and his approach. I think, anybody who watched him over the years, you don’t get that success because you have good technique. You get it because you have something very special inside you that makes you work when you’re still the best. He just kept having such a consistent manner, and that’s a real tribute to how he approached the game.”

Lundqvist never needed to ask Richter for advice. There was none Richter needed to pass on. Everything Lundqvist had was innate.

“One of the things that great players have is the standard that they set for themselves,” Richter said. “No coach, no GM, no scout’s gonna ask more of themselves than they do, and Hank had that. You have to wrestle with that your whole life in order to have that balance of demanding perfection every night and understanding it doesn’t always happen, and then coming back renewed and ready to roll the next morning, a practice in the middle of February when you’re beat up and you’re tired and all of that. And, I think, [trainer] Jim [Ramsay] was saying he’s so intense. He’s like, he’s got some of you in him.

“And so, I didn’t have any information that was gonna be particularly important for Hank.”

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