NEW YORK -- The goaltending mask New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist donned during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs featured a tribute to Swedish tennis legend Bjorn Borg. But at a celebrity table tennis tournament, he decided not to wear Borg's signature headband. Although he admits he could have used it.
"I was thinking about [wearing] it, but I decided not to go with it," Lundqvist said. "I should have, though. I was sweating out there. But it was fun."
Lundqvist's pingpong skills were on display at New York's Madison Square Park for the Delta Open, a public event in which fans earned prizes courtesy of Delta Airlines. Lundqvist was matched up against other athletes, including tennis star Serena Williams, Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks and Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees. With the New York Mets' game against the Atlanta Braves coinciding with the event, team mascot Mrs. Met made an appearance as well.
Each of the athletes faced off in shortened pingpong matches, with Williams, the world's top-ranked women's player, usually deciding the final score when all was said and done. In the end, Williams and Schumpert faced off in a spirited doubles match against Lundqvist and Gardner.
While her prowess on the tennis court was clearly transferable to table tennis, Williams was impressed by the play of her fellow players, particularly Lundqvist.
"He's actually a better pingpong player than I was. Obviously he's a great athlete, he's a good competitor," Williams said of Lundqvist. "I was definitely deciding the score. I couldn't beat him, so I thought, 'let me just cheat him.'"
Having recently started skating in New York in anticipation of the upcoming season, the table tennis tournament rekindled the competitive spirit that has helped make Lundqvist one of the world's elite goaltenders. His next competition will likely be on the ice with the Rangers.
"A few years back, I played a lot [of pingpong]. My last few years, I haven't really played that much [lately]," Lundqvist said. "But we do have a table at the rink. My first few years, we did have a few tournaments every year. For some reason, we stopped. Maybe it's time to pick it up again."