"I'm here to play hockey. My main focus is to play hockey, but you've got to enjoy life and it's a short career. But for me personally, I like to do things off the ice to kind of relax from hockey, because we focus so much on playing games and traveling, and so when you have time to do something else, it's a good fit for me, and New York is a good place for that."
-- Henrik Lundqvist
Just imagine if Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
had been drafted and developed by the Dallas Stars
. Cowboy boots and chaps for the stylish Swedish goaltender? Perhaps.
Lundqvist's teammate Sean Avery
did spend a portion of last season with the Stars, but was traded back to New York and the city where he, too, has forged a reputation as one of the most style conscious NHL players off the ice.
New York is one of the fashion capitals of the world and it just seems a natural fit that these two high-profile athletes, who are pretty good hockey players in their own right, are entrenched in the style scene there.
Lundqvist's wardrobe includes designer names such as Dior, Hugo Boss, and Tiger of Sweden. After a game, it's not uncommon to see Avery stepping out of Madison Square Garden dressed in Alexander McQueen, Dries van Noten or Gucci. He is also a consultant for menswear line Commonwealth Utilities, and did a celebrated summer internship at Vogue magazine in 2008.
"To play in New York, it's very special. You get an opportunity to do stuff that you probably wouldn't be able to do somewhere else," Lundqvist, 27, said.
"So I mean, I really try to enjoy the whole thing. I'm here to play hockey. My main focus is to play hockey, but you've got to enjoy life and it's a short career. But for me personally, I like to do things off the ice to kind of relax from hockey, because we focus so much on playing games and traveling, and so when you have time to do something else, it's a good fit for me, and New York is a good place for that."
Part of what Lundqvist is describing included playing acoustic guitar at the grand opening of Avery's new Manhattan bar/restaurant, Warren 77, in the fashionable Tribeca neighborhood last May.
It's not just that Lundqvist and Avery enjoy nice clothes, but that they can break out of the traditional athlete mold and fit into the fashionista and glitterati mode of fast-paced and trendy New York. Both have attended annual New York Fashion Week events.
Avery, 29, is involved with a charity called Career Gear, which is an organization that gives job-interview clothes to the homeless and others trying to get a fresh start in life. Avery even went on the "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" show to promote the charity. On the set the two engaged in an accuracy-shooting contest and when Avery easily won, Fallon made good on a friendly bet and agreed to donate the suit he was wearing to Career Gear.
"You're like the Martha Stewart of hockey," Fallon told Avery.
As for Lundqvist, the goaltender has been featured in the January 2009 issue of L'uomo Vogue
, the Italian men's fashion magazine, and the October 2009 issue of GQ Magazine. He was also on the cover of the New York Post's Page Six Magazine with the headline, "Henrik Lundqvist
, the world's sexiest ice man."
"[The Rangers all] wear a suit every time we travel. So it's pretty much five days a week in a suit," Lundqvist said. "There's a lot of space in my closet dedicated to that. And I never wear T-shirts. I don't want to wear something that's not me."
Lundqvist is an introverted Swede with brown locks uncharacteristic of his homeland -- you think Swedish, you usually think blonde. Avery, meanwhile, is an extroverted Canadian from the Toronto suburb of North York who prefers to be a bit flashier in style and substance.
"Sean's one of a kind," Lundqvist said. "When Page Six Magazine put me on its Top 25 Best Dressed list [September 2008] with the caption "Sean who?" I gave it to my brother [fraternal twin Joel, a former center for the Dallas Stars
, Avery's former team] to put in Sean's stall in the locker room. Sean didn't think it was very funny."
Lundqvist was named to People magazine's list of Most Beautiful People in 2006, not long after he began his NHL career and earned the nickname "King Henrik." That beauty and style was also recognized by renowned fashion photographer Bruce Weber.
"His people saw me at a party and organized a meeting through the League," Lundqvist said. That shoot eventually was published in L'uomo Vogue
"(Lundqvist) likes to dress up. But sometimes I don't understand how he can put on his pants because they're so tight," said former teammate Scott Gomez
Avery's interest in fashion differs in several ways, but is no less celebrated than Lundqvist's. A report called Avery "a self-confessed clotheshorse who has been known to give girlfriends advice on how to dress, and in interviews has expressed a dream to become a fashion editor after his days on the ice."
Avery says women's fashion is more interesting because it offers more ways to be creative. With men, "You do suits and pants and that's about that," he said. "Women's clothes tell a story. That's what's interesting to me."
To get the internship at Vogue, Avery sent a letter to editor-in-chief Anna Wintour expressing his desire to work there. A spokesperson for the magazine said Avery worked with several editors and performed traditional intern chores, right down to making copies, but also attended several couture shows around the world.
Avery has partnered with friend Lauryn Flynn, the former director of celebrity services for Calvin Klein. "We want to get it back to the point where girls don't worry about what US Weekly says. It's about expressing individual style and just wearing what's cool," Avery said. "I'm totally consumed by fashion. We want to help them bring their individuality back."
Would you believe that New Line Cinema has commissioned a screenplay based on Avery's life as a fashionista?
"I think it's going to be something that guys can take their girls to," Avery said.
Lundqvist has a contract to play for the Rangers that runs through 2013-14, but hockey and fashion fans should get accustomed to seeing him in New York for longer than that.
"I'm pretty settled and just signed a six-year contract," he said. "I can see myself staying here after my career. I love this city."