They hung Henrik Lundqvist’s No. 30 jersey from the rafters at Madison Square Garden last week, alongside some New York Ranger royalty. Nobody ever deserved the honor more.
Lundqvist was the face of the franchise and just the third goaltender honored this way. The others are Ed Giacomin, who was part of a Ranger renaissance in the 1960s and ‘70s and Mike Richter, who won a Stanley Cup in 1994.
That Cup, by the way, is the only one the Rangers have won in the last 82 years.
They came close a couple of times with Lundqvist, most memorably in 2014 against the Los Angeles Kings. They lost the first three games of the Cup final that year but stayed alive by winning Game Four 2-1, despite being outshot 41-19 and 15-1 in the third period. Game 5 went to double overtime before the Kings won 3-2 with a 34-18 margin in shots from the third period on. At the end, Lundqvist lay prone on the ice, exhausted and beaten.
The Stanley Cup is the ultimate reward for hockey players, the oldest piece of hardware available in any professional sport. It is a bit battered these days having been handled rather cavalierly by some teams. Never by the Rangers, however.
Lundqvist joined some impressive numbers hanging over the Garden ice. Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Mark Messier and Richter were part of the 1994 Cup champions. Giacomin, Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle, and Rod Gilbert were the nucleus of a team that contended every year but never quite won it all. Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate were part of an earlier generation.
Four years ago, the Rangers recognized the need to reload and announced an overhaul of their roster. Lundqvist was not part of the remake because he was too good.
Eventually his age caught up with him and he moved on. He won 459 games, the most for any Ranger goalie, was a five-time All-Star and the Vezina Trophy winner in 2012. He guarded the Ranger nets 887 times, the most for any goaltender in team history.
Those are just raw numbers. There is more to Lundqvist that those numbers. He was the inspirational leader of this team, the man they depended on for the big save in the crucial moments of their games.
He was King Henrik and now he is up there with the rest of Ranger royalty, a perfect place for the best goaltender of his time.