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Rangers' Lundqvist on World Cup, Stanley Cup, more

by Dan Rosen

TORONTO -- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, entering his 11th season with the New York Rangers, was among a group of elite NHL players at the League's annual Player Media Tour on Tuesday.

Lundqvist spoke with about the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the Rangers, perspective he gained from sitting out with his injury last season, and more in the following Q&A:

We're in Toronto and there is a big press conference about the World Cup, so let's start there. What does it mean to you that you'll likely have another opportunity to play for Sweden in a major tournament, except this time in Toronto, which is considered the hockey capital?

"I'm excited. I think it's going to be a great tournament. Any time you play for your country it's a very special feeling. I still don't know yet how it's going to feel compared to the Olympics, just have to play and see. It's how it started for me, watching the national team play. It's always been very special to put that jersey on, and you're extremely proud every time you do it. The big thing too is you get to play against the best players, kind of like in an Olympic tournament. I'm looking forward to it."

The Rangers have been so close, going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 and Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final last season. Do you go into this season now, at 33 years old, worrying that your window is closing despite being so close, and do you feel the pressure going up because of that?

"No. I'm just excited that we have a team that's up there fighting for it. For a few years it was definitely a goal, but it was a long stretch for us to really reach to that level. Now I feel we have the group to fight for it and to be there. If we play a certain way, play on top of our ability, we have a chance to win a lot of games. That's exciting. I try to see it that way instead of a closing window, because who knows how long we can keep this stretch going, how long we can keep the group together? There is no point in going there. Right now, it's this year. The core is still here."

What perspective did you gain from having to sit out with a vascular injury in your neck last season considering how scary the diagnosis was for you and what could have been, such as the potential for a stroke if you kept playing?

"It didn't change much on the safety aspect. Stuff happens. But what it did is it made me realize how much I love the game. It's hard not to be a part of it for two months. I never experienced that before. It was like that feeling you had during the lockout, where you want to play but you're not able to play, but then everybody is in the same situation. It was tougher because you want to be part of the team, you want to play. Everything around the game is fun, the travel, meeting people, the interactions. All of that is a big part of the life, and you definitely realize it when you don't have it."

You're in New York 10 years now and going into your 11th season with the Rangers. Think about yourself 10 years ago and compare it to now. How much have you changed?

"I don't know how much I've changed. Obviously, my life has changed a lot. Hopefully, I'm a little smarter. Two kids now. I think the perspective on the game, the people around you, you get a better understanding of a lot of things compared to when you were 22 or 23. I try to enjoy it as much as I can because I know it won't last forever. When you're younger, you just focus on the next level all the time and you forget to enjoy the ride."

Do you enjoy the game more now than you did 10 years ago?

"The last few years I really tried to embrace the fact that I've been lucky to get this opportunity. I see a lot of good players who work really hard and they don't get that chance or that break. I've had people around me to give me an opportunity to play and I appreciate that. I try to do my best with it, to push myself in the right direction."

As the summer winds down, do you get excited and look forward to coming back to New York, not just for the hockey but for the atmosphere of the city?

"I do. It's nice to get a break, to go home to Sweden. It's a completely different life. It's a slow lifestyle. You see your friends and family, and it's really relaxing, it really is. But then August comes, you start skating every day, and you can feel it, there's a new season around the corner. You start missing the city. It's good timing. Right around late August to come back, New York is great, fall is coming, and it's just exciting to be back, to see the guys, to prepare for a new year."

Is there a player in the League that you just don't like facing?

"Well, it's funny, I skate with Loui Eriksson in Gothenburg a lot, and we go at it all the time in practice. If he manages to score on me, I have to hear about it the entire year. I like playing against him, but at the same time I don't. We get along real well, but we try to annoy each other a little bit."

Has he scored on you?

"Yeah, he fanned on a breakaway once and it went five-hole. He said he tried to go five-hole, but I read it, he was going high and he fanned on it. We still talk about it."

What is the best part about playing in New York?

"I don't know if you could say one thing. I think adding up all the good things makes it so special. You play for an Original Six team. You play for an organization that does everything for the players so we have an opportunity to do our job the best we can. The city. Playing in [Madison Square] Garden. When you start adding up all these things, it makes it very special. Also, I've been lucky to play in New York the whole time. I hear players come there that have been around the League and say, 'Wow, this is a really special place,' that makes you feel really good about where you are. I've obviously been lucky because I couldn't really control it. They picked me. But adding up all those things -- the city, the fans, the Garden, the organization -- yeah, it really makes it special."

So do you like wearing the crown in New York? They do call you "The King."

"It's a funny nickname that stayed with me. I try to explain to people sometimes it's more because of my name, Henrik, more than anything. People don't realize that when they might ask what are you called 'The King' for? If my name was Anders, I don't think I would be King Anders. But Henrik is an old royal name, and that's how it started. It's just kind of funny when people shout it out in the street when I'm walking by. New Yorkers are very cool like that."


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