NYRANGERS.COM - Earlier this week, a current Young Ambassador for the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation and former Garden of Dreams ambassador learned that she had received a $100,000 college scholarship in recognition for her charitable work.
The scholarship, on its own, was cause for celebration. Then, the ambassador received a personal video from Henrik Lundqvist himself, who - in the midst of preparing to represent Team Sweden at the upcoming IIHF World Championship - dropped everything to thank her for her work and congratulate her on her accomplishment.
That's Lundqvist in a nutshell. For him, the only thing better than giving back to the community himself is seeing the young kids he inspires follow in his footsteps.
On Tuesday, Lundqvist was named one of three finalists for the NHL's King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to "the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community."
Each of the league's 31 teams nominated a player for the award, and the list was whittled to three on Tuesday. Joining Lundqvist as finalists are Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Minnesota's Jason Zucker.
"I'm really honored," Lundqvist said. "For 14 years, being a part of New York City and the community in New York, it's been special. To work with the Garden of Dreams Foundation and the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation gives me a lot of perspective on a lot of things in life, and it's important to me. So I'm really grateful for this honor."
The winner of the trophy - named for Francis M. "King" Clancy, a former player, coach, referee, team executive and renowned humanitarian - will be announced at the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone on Wednesday, June 19 in Las Vegas. The recipient will be chosen by a committee of senior NHL executives spearheaded by Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
The winner will receive a $40,000 donation from the National Hockey League Foundation to the charity of his choice, and the runners-up each will receive a $5,000 donation.
Past winners of the award include Rangers legend Adam Graves, who was recognized for his work as Celebrity Chairman of New York's Family Dynamic program in 1994, and Vancouver's Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who were recognized last year for helping to raise $42 million for the Canucks for Kids fund since 2000.
Throughout the course of his 14-year NHL career, all spent with the Rangers, Lundqvist has received plenty of on-ice accolades. In 2011-12, he won the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league's top goaltender. He has registered the most wins and the most postseason wins by a goalie in Rangers history. He has played in five All-Star Games, including this year's at age 36.
Those accomplishments have all certainly been special. But this nomination, Lundqvist's first for this award, ranks right up there with all the rest.
"To win - I think it would mean a lot to all the folks that he's helped over the whole time he's played here, from just meeting people, to providing tickets, to being a model athlete," said Kristine Burton, Vice President of the Garden of Dreams Foundation. "I know a lot of the younger players have always looked up to him, especially as it relates to Garden of Dreams. For all the fans and all the kids that he's helped - he deserves to win, without question."
In the Rangers dressing room, Lundqvist is known for his steadfast approach to each game, his competitiveness, his drive. As the most veteran player on the Rangers roster, he takes his role as a mentor and a leader very seriously.
"He's been our franchise player for very long time - any time you have a player like that in the organization, it's important," said Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton. "Of course, he has the respect of everybody in the room, everybody in the organization. You can see that from the fans everywhere you go. He's been a stand-up guy for this franchise, and everybody in this organization has been better because he's been in it. We all know that."
Much of the Rangers roster, stocked with youth and potential, has consistently looked to Lundqvist as an example of how to prepare, how to compete and simply how to be a pro.
"You see a guy who's played this long in the league, his focus and competitiveness - I haven't seen much like it," said defenseman Brady Skjei, who occupies the locker next to Lundqvist's at MSG Training Center. "To be next to him and to learn off of him, I'm definitely not taking it for granted."
To hear it from Blueshirts players and staff, Lundqvist is a pillar of the Rangers organization. Off the ice, he has established himself as just as much of a pillar of the community.
Since 2009, Lundqvist has served as the Rangers spokesperson for the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit that works with The Madison Square Garden Company and MSG Networks to positively impact the lives of children facing obstacles. In 2014, with his wife Therese, he founded the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation, which seeks to positively impact the lives of children and adults through education and health services.
The HLF supports the Garden of Dreams Foundation, the New York Presbyterian Children's Hospitals, Ronald McDonald Houses in Sweden and Together for Better, an organization founded by Swedish journalist Ebba Lovenskiold that makes education and school supplies accessible for children living in poverty in the Dominican Republic.
Lundqvist's foundation also boasts a Young Ambassador Program, born of the Lundqvists' belief in the power of young people to create positive change in the world.
Since 2009, Lundqvist has raised over $2.5 million to benefit HLF community partners and the Young Ambassador Program, and the HLF has provided $1 million of grants and commitments that support children's health and education.
"He wanted to bring the good work he was doing [with Garden of Dreams] to his birthplace is Sweden," Burton said. "We wouldn't be able to provide him that opportunity, so for them to be able to do what they're doing in Sweden - hat was important to him and his family."
Among last year's charitable endeavors hosted by the Lundqvist Foundation were a Christmas visit to New York Presbyterian Hospital to meet patients and distribute gifts, a back-to-school supply delivery in the Dominican Republic, summer days spent at the Ronald McDonald House in Gothenburg and much more. Lundqvist also remains the official spokesperson and an advisory board member for the Garden of Dreams Foundation and each month, he donates a suite that allows 40 Garden of Dreams kids and their families to enjoy a Rangers game at MSG.
Regardless of the accolades that may come in the future, those events will continue. This work has become just as much a part of Lundqvist's identity as the No. 30 and his Statue of Liberty-emblazoned goalie mask.
"He's a genuine, caring person who has a big heart," Burton said. "I see how he is with his family and I see how he is with our kids, and he doesn't ever say no. He's always there for the kids. It's all genuine, and it's all because he understands his role and he understands he's a hero to a lot of kids - to a lot of kids who are going through a lot, and he can make them happy.
"He's a competitor and he wants to win, but if we bring a kid in after a game, he'll always be thrilled to see them. The kid won't know if the team may have lost. He's so happy to see them, and it makes the kid's life."