Henrik Lundqvist can't help but smile Thursday afternoon as he walks through the NHL Store in midtown Manhattan, where he is about to sign autographs and conduct a Q&A session with local fans. Following the loud fan's lead, the group of Ranger faithful picks up on the vocal lead and erupts into a chant of "Henrik, Henrik, Henrik."
It sure is good to be king.
But, on this day, the New York Rangers' All-Star goaltender hasn't come alone.
He's also brought with him his newest teammate, forward Brad Richards, who entered the summer as the biggest catch of the free-agency crop before signing a nine-year, $60-million deal with the Rangers on July 1.
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With the big signing, Richards overnight became a big star for a big franchise in a very big city. Not bad for a kid who grew up in a small fishing village in Prince Edward Island.
Richards is still adapting to his new life in the Big Apple. It's a difficult transition to which Lundqvist can relate.
After growing up in a small town in Sweden, the three-time Vezina nominee arrived in New York in 2005 and has since taken the city by storm, as the "Henrik" chant certainly indicates.
"My first year I lived outside the city and my focus was just playing hockey," said Lundqvist. "I left everything in Sweden, all my friends and family. So the first year you just focus on hockey. Then you try to build your life here. It probably took me two or three years before I felt like I was coming home. It's a great feeling when you feel that. My life is here, my friends are here. But it takes a lot to build that up."
Lundqvist may be able to help his new teammate with the transition to life in New York, but he's really looking to relate to one of Richards' past experiences.
After all, Lundqvist may have the Olympic gold medal, but Richards has a Stanley Cup in his trophy case courtesy of his playoff-MVP performance in 2004.
"I appreciate it more and more as the days go by because I haven't been back," said Richards. "It would be amazing to try to win that here."