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Breaking News: Henrik Lundqvist announces retirement from NHL

Henrik Lundqvist’s speech began just after 3 p.m. on Friday at Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden, or a little after 9 a.m. in New York.

“It’s the place where I watched my first real hockey game when I was 6 years old,” Henrik Lundqvist had told The Post before he made the trip to the rink. “That’s where I really started to watch hockey. That’s when my dream began that one day I would play there for Frolunda.”

That is where it began and that, on Friday, is where Lundqvist’s hockey career officially came to an end, the netminder romantically bookending it with the announcement that he is retiring at age 39 because of heart inflammation after 15 NHL seasons with the Rangers that followed four in the Swedish Elite League, as it was known then, with Frolunda.

“When [this] summer started, my plan was still to come back,” said Lundqvist, who signed with the Capitals in October of 2020 but did not play a game for them before undergoing open-heart surgery in early January. “I started working out again and was skating, but without any contact. But there were some setbacks. Too much exertion caused some chest pain.

“I was hoping I would be 100 percent by this time. But I was told that inflammation takes a long time to correct and with medication I might be out of the woods, but it could be another full year before I would be 100 percent.

“So I thought about this, talked with my closest friends, my family and my wife, Therese. This year was probably harder for her than for me. She is such a strong woman. It came down to how badly I wanted to push it, how much of a gamble did I want to take? And I came to the conclusion that there are too many unknowns and too much risk for not enough reward for me to keep playing.

 

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“I’m OK with this. I am. I feel like I’m at a very strong place mentally after going through all of the challenges of the last year, starting with when the Rangers bought me out,” said No. 30. “For the last eight months or so, there has been so much waiting-and-seeing, and I have not been in the driver’s seat. I’ve been in the passenger’s seat. Now there was a decision to make.

“It’s all still fresh. I decided only a few days ago. But I am at peace. I look back at my career, and all I have is gratitude and pride. I am just so grateful.”

To recap: Lundqvist and the Rangers were aware that the goaltender had a heart condition that required monitoring following the Swede’s first medical upon joining the organization in 2005. The condition, checked regularly, never reached the point where Lundqvist required medical attention throughout his Broadway run.

But after he was bought out in September of 2020 and thereafter signed a one-year free agent deal with Washington, Lundqvist required open-heart surgery after an enlarged aorta and leaky valve had been discovered during a pre-camp exam.

Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic on Jan. 8 in which Lundqvist received an aortic valve replacement, an aortic root and an ascending aortic replacement, was successful to the degree that the goaltender had gotten back onto the ice in late February and was taking shots while planning to join the Caps for the final weeks of the season and the playoffs.

But Lundqvist was shut down in early April after inflammation was discovered. Then came summer hope before medical reality intruded and put a premature end to one of the great goaltending careers in NHL history and one of the most legendary careers in Rangers history.

“When I look back, there’s so much that goes into winning,” said the goaltender who retires as the sixth-winningest netminder in NHL history at 459-310-96 with a 2.43 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and 64 shutouts. In the postseason, he added another 61 wins and 10 shutouts and led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2014. “Of course it is disappointing not to win the Cup, but we had our chances and we had our window. I am grateful for my teammates and to have played for those teams.

“There was nothing like the feeling of those big wins at the Garden, those Game 7s with everything on the line, the noise, and the way the building would explode after a victory. There was nothing like that feeling.”

Lundqvist played in eight Game 7s, going 6-2 with a 1.11 GAA and .961 save percentage, never allowing more than two goals in any of those showdown matches. He and the Rangers went an astonishing 15-4 in elimination games from 2012 through 2015. But no Cup.

“Loyalty was so important to me throughout my career,” Lundqvist said. “I feel like I left everything I had on the ice in New York. That feels good. When I made the decision to stay for the rebuild, loyalty was the most important thing to me. We didn’t win, but I did right by me. Staying meant so much to me.”

“It feels almost like normal,” said the King, who will turn 40 next March 2. “And now I’m going to start living a normal life, so to speak, in New York. I’m excited for the next chapter.”

The next chapter may or may not be hockey-related. “I have a few ideas, both inside and outside of hockey,” he said. “I love the game and always will, so when it’s time, I’ll see if there might be something where I can be involved with that.”

“I know I am going to reconnect with Jim at some point,” Lundqvist said of executive chairman and CEO Jim Dolan. “If I’m involved at some point with the Rangers, it would be beautiful in my mind. But I don’t know if now is the time.

“I can say this, though. I’m feeling good, I’m feeling grateful. Never once have I asked, ‘Why me?’ There have been so many challenges for all of us in the last year. I’m looking forward to the next part of my life.

“I’m looking forward to being in New York. It has such a big piece of my heart.”

Igor Burdetskiy

Igor Burdetskiy

Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & CEO at Hooked on Hockey Magazine
I grew up playing Ball and Roller Hockey day and night somewhat religiously throughout elementary and middle school. The two don't compare though when I lace up the skates and hit the ice. I live and breathe hockey beyond the perspective of "it's just a game" and I will gladly talk hockey for hours with anyone. Hockey is more than just a lifestyle, it's a culture of passionate people who make memories every time the puck is dropped. Hockey has not only helped me get through some of the hardest times in life but has created some of the best memories to date. Want to talk hockey with me? Shoot me an email: iburdetskiy@hookedonhockey.com and let's talk some hockey!
Igor Burdetskiy
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