“Who is the face of New York Sports?” This question is the topic of many sports radio shows, bar discussions, and just general sports talk. But who is the face of New York Sports?
Is it Matt Harvey, the one they call the “Dark Knight” who is back to save the New York Mets and help them finally make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2006? Is it Odell Beckham Jr., who took the NFL and New York by storm when he charged onto the scene towards the end of the 2015 season and made Giants fans excited at the prospect of him and Victor Cruz as a lethal tandem? Or is it Masahiro Tanaka, whose fragile elbow holds the hopes of the New York Yankees season, and who is must see television when he pitches? There are probably several more candidates that could be listed, but the clear face of New York Sports is Henrik Lundqvist, and by the conclusion of this article, you will see why.
Henrik Lundqvist has been New York’s most consistent star athlete since Derek Jeter. Now that Jeter is retired, Lundqvist alone holds that distinction. Ever since Lundqvist made his debut in 2005 for the New York Rangers, Lundqvist has been a superstar. Nicknamed “King Henrik” by the media, Lundqvist has played like a King, as he has led his comrades into tough playoff game after tough playoff game, and is sometimes the only reason that the Rangers win, or are in the game.
Go back and watch any Rangers postseason game, and you will find very few games where Lundqvist was a reason why the team lost. Go back to when Lundqvist won the Vezina trophy in 2012, and you will see how Lundqvist helped carry the Rangers to a game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, where the team was eliminated on a fluke goal by Adam Henrique that went through many bodies before he put it in.
That postseason, the Rangers struggled against Ottawa and Washington, and Lundqvist had to win two games sevens in order for the Rangers to advance. Although the Rangers never made it past the second round of the postseason until 2012, Lundqvist still lead the Rangers to the postseason every single season since he took over in net except for 2010, when the Rangers were eliminated on the last day of the regular season against the Philadelphia Flyers, when the offense was nonexistent.
Since 2012, Lundqvist has really stepped up his game in the postseason, when it matters most, and while he cannot escape complete blame, he is nowhere close to the reason why the Rangers have not yet won the Stanley Cup since 1994. Since 2012, only 5 out of the Rangers 13 postseason rounds have gone less than 7 games, and two years in a row, the team had to come back from the brink of elimination in the second round. Henrik is not the reason the Rangers are losing, it is inconsistency, a lack of goal scoring, and an inability to step on another team’s throat and put them away.
Besides all of his accolades, which includes being Rangers team MVP from 2007-2013, a Vezina Trophy win and a Hart Trophy nomination in 2012, and holding 8 Rangers team records including the most wins and shutouts by a Rangers goaltender, it is Lundqvist’s attitude and passion that is part of the reason why he is the face of New York Sports.
Lundqvist is the best player on the best New York Sports team since 2012, and his passion for winning is unquestioned. Lundqvist was the one most distraught after the devastating loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals and he like many Rangers fans (including your author) flung himself on the ground burst into tears and was inconsolable. Lundqvist was the one who needed to be consoled by Cam Talbot after losing Game 7 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, even though Lundqvist seemed to be one of the few Rangers who did not have a broken bone and showed up to play.
Lundqvist just today spoke at a Tag Heuer Event in Manhattan about how disappointing it was to lose Game 7, and how the Rangers must address their home playoff scoring woes. Even a full two weeks later, Lundqivst still cannot get the loss off of his mind, where many players are probably enjoying their offseason or trying to forget it. Lundqvist invokes the passion of New York Sports fans, who demand nothing but success and who are still haunted by heartbreaking losses and who still fondly recall championship runs no matter how many years ago they were.
In short, Henrik Lundqvist is the face of New York Sports due to his passion for the game, his unprecedented success since his debut, and his ability to be the best player for the New York Rangers each and every night during the regular season and postseason, carrying his team to 3 out of the last 4 Eastern Conference Finals and to a playoff berth in all of his seasons except for 2010.
While hockey is unfortunately not as popular as some of the other sports, Lundqvist is known by all New York Sports fans, as he took the Rangers on back to back magical postseason journeys, while the majority of the other New York teams were marred in poor seasons. Henrik Lundqvist is the face of New York Sports because he is a proven winner, and New Yorkers always get behind a winner.
If the Rangers can win the Stanley Cup in the next few seasons, Lundqvist will go down as one of the greatest New York Sports athletes in history, and will be remembered by Rangers fans, and missed by those who choose to nitpick and criticize him. Rejoice Henrik, you are the “King of New York Sports.”