To some, New York Rangers
goalie Henrik Lundqvist
has been referred to as "King Henrik" or simply "The King."
Henrik's identical twin, Joel, a Dallas Stars
' center, prefers a different sobriquet.
"Yeah, my wife gave birth to our first child (on April 20); a little girl (Vilma) around lunchtime," Joel told NHL.com. "So, to us, he's Uncle Henrik now."
It's definitely not the first time Joel has given Henrik a little nudge to the gut with sly commentary, and it certainly won't be the last, but the brotherly bond between Henrik and Joel is certainly special. In addition to playing the game they love in different cities, they are also excited about the prospects of possibly meeting in hockey's biggest series -- the Stanley Cup Final.
"It's still far down the road, but wouldn't that be something if we met up in the Final?" Joel said. "Of course, it's possible since we both play for teams that have advanced and want to go all the way. It would be awesome if it happens."
Henrik, who is 40 minutes the elder, and Joel grew up best buddies in their native Are, Sweden. They were skiers, soccer players, tennis players and, most notably, hockey junkies. In fact, Rangers fans should thank Joel for providing his brother with the motivation to give the goalie position a shot some 18 years ago.
"Hank was a big fan of Swedish goalie Peter Lindmark and, being a goalie in soccer, he kept telling me prior to our practice that he wanted to be a goalie," Joel said. "So, when the coach asked for volunteers in net, I kind of grabbed his arm and raised his hand to help him out.
"I didn't do it as a joke or to be smart, but I felt more like I was helping him out," he continued. "I told him that if he wanted to play goal, he had to tell the coach right away."
Henrik, who sported a 2.35 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in the Rangers' five-game series victory against the New Jersey Devils
in the opening round, is certainly grateful. He's also one of three nominees for this season's Vezina Trophy, emblematic of the League's best goaltender.
"At the first practice, they asked us who wanted to be in the net," recalled Henrik. "So, I figured I'd give it a shot since I played goalie in soccer and just liked the position. Hey, you always need a goalie, so I guess I was the guy."
So long as the Lundqvist twins were teammates, there were never any issues.
"Each of us really wanted to win, so that's why it was always the best when we were on the same team," Joel said. "If one was on the other team and lost, that person sometimes ended up crying, just like any other young brother would, or running away. So it was better being together. Sometimes we fought a little and it got pretty intense but when we turned 12 or 13, we were much calmer and learned to talk things out.
"Mom or dad never played any favorites," Joel added, "they just stayed away."
Henrik always admired Joel's compassionate nature and, even today, feels he is the more subtle of the two. That's quite a statement, considering Joel was a tough, physical presence for the Stars alongside linemates Loui Eriksson
and Brad Richards
in the team's first-round victory against the Anaheim Ducks
. The trio combined for five goals and nine assists in six games. Lundqvist, who is also fourth on the team with 14 hits in the playoffs, chipped in four points and three assists.
"Joel cares a lot about other people and has always been very humble and calm," Henrik said. "That's his best quality. He was always a real team player growing up and, a lot of times, was captain of our teams and was a good leader.
"Each of us really wanted to win, so that's why it was always the best when we were on the same team. If one was on the other team and lost, that person sometimes ended up crying, just like any other young brother would, or running away. So it was better being together." - Joel Lundqvist
"Growing up together was great because I always had a best friend," Henrik added. "We played on the street together almost every day and competed very hard against and for each other. But it was nice knowing someone was watching your back all the time."
While Joel is regarded as the peacemaker, Henrik has been known to wear his emotions on his sleeve.
"His greatest quality is his will to win," Joel said. "Even in practice, he hated to allow a goal so he was even determined to shut people out in practice. He competes so hard in the net, and I think that's the big key for him and the reason he has been a nominee for the Vezina Trophy three straight years."
It's that competitive verve that gives Henrik an edge, not only over the competition, but Joel as well. On Dec. 14, 2006, they become the third set of twins to play against each other in NHL history, along with the Sutters and Sundstroms. Henrik stole the show, stopping a career-high 43 shots in the Rangers' 5-2 victory.
"He had more of an advantage when we played because he always knew what move I was going to make, so I didn't score very much in practice," Joel said. "Maybe I'll get another chance."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.