Dallas Stars fans were probably not terribly familiar with Joel Lundqvist heading into the 2006-07 season, other than the fact that he is the identical twin brother of New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Henrik led Sweden to the 2006 Olympic gold medal and was named to People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People, but Joel made his presence felt with the Dallas Stars last season, solidifying his place among the club's young nucleus of players to build around.
DallasStars.com recently spoke to Lundqvist to discuss a number of topics, ranging from his NHL debut to his goals for the future.
DallasStars.com: How would you describe your emotions during your first NHL game?
Lundqvist: "I was really nervous during my first game. Everything related to being called up from Iowa was very stressful. From getting the call to the actual plane ride down to Dallas, it was all a bit stressful. But the best part was that we won the game, I played like 15 minutes or so, and it was a very good start. They threw me right in with some quality minutes. After that, I struggled a little bit and I went up and down a couple times, but the season as a whole was a great learning experience for me."
DallasStars.com: Your first goal must have been a memorable moment for you. How did it happen and what were your emotions?
Lundqvist: "My first goal was at home in January, against Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff. It was a long rebound to the side and I came across and shot it in. It was really nothing special, but of course, since it was my first NHL goal, it was very special to me. It was a little bit of a relief to me too, because I had a lot of zeros everywhere. My role here was a little different than my role in Iowa. Here, I am more of a hard-working player. Of course, it is great when I score, but my role was less of a goal scorer and more of a grinder."
DallasStars.com: Have you given any thought to your first goal coming against Miikka Kiprusoff, one of the elite goaltenders in the league?
Lundqvist: "No, not yet anyway. Of course, he is very good and I've had a lot of chances against a lot of goalies. It didn't matter who it was as long as it went in. Looking back, we all kind of had a little laugh that it happened against a Finn. Sweden and Finland have a good-natured rivalry, so that added to the experience."
DallasStars.com: You had a lot of success in your rookie season playing on a line with Stu Barnes and Jeff Halpern. How comfortable did you become with those players?
Lundqvist: "They are really good guys. We talk a lot out there and we help each other out. They both have a lot of experience in this league, so it is really great to get my start working with those two guys. We are all similar players with similar games. We all work very hard and are good defenders. I really like playing with them and I seem to fit in well. We all have a similar mentality in the sense that we all started out as centers and have played in different situations. Basically, they are just extremely good players and I don't have to worry about them. I can just focus on my role, my job, and we help each other out where we can."
DallasStars.com: Your style of play has been described more as a physical, North American style. How did you develop that game?
Lundqvist: "I've always been a hard-working kind of player and that's the way I play now. When I was younger, I was one of the top goal-scorers wherever I played, but I was always about being a good two-way player. When I played in the Swedish league, the game was totally different. The bigger rink is a factor and it's just a different game. You can't go around trying to put hits on people all the time because it's more difficult. But, last year, when I played on the national team, the game was quicker and more like the style of play here in the NHL. I had more of a hard checking role there and I think that prepared me to fill that role here."
DallasStars.com: How much did Dallas assistant coach and fellow Swede Ulf Dahlen help in your transition to the North American game?
Lundqvist: "It has been great, especially for Loui (Eriksson) and myself. Coming over and being very new to everything, he helped me a lot this past year. He always helps and tells me his point of view, which is usually very helpful and supporting. I had the chance to meet him a couple of years ago for the first time so I kind of knew him coming here. He's a very great guy and fun to have around and everybody likes him. Of course, I followed his playing career, and I knew he was really good. When he coached our World Cup team, I heard that the guys on the team really liked him and he gave them good advice. I really like coaches who can do that. He didn't just tell us what to do, but really how to do it, and not everyone has that quality."
DallasStars.com: What was it like to representing Sweden in the World Championships and other major international tournaments?
Lundqvist: "It was really a lot of fun and a great honor. There are tournaments throughout the year and I've had the chance to be a part of that for about three years. I'd say that last year was really the first year that I was comfortable with the style and speed of the game, and I think I made some good strides. I think that last year was a great step for me and helped me make the transition to North America. It is always special to represent your country and I hope I get to do that more in the future."
DallasStars.com: You won a gold medal for Sweden in the 2006 World Championships and your brother, Henrik, won a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. How do you feel about your success as brothers?
Lundqvist: "It's a very intense competition. It is really great to come home with a gold medal, especially since he had one too. A lot of people ask me if I am jealous of him, but I would say that his success has inspired me. It makes me work harder and gives me more desire to achieve my goals and my dreams. His success affirms that I can do it as well, and be a success in this league. It is tough to compare our games because we play completely different positions, with him being a goalie."
DallasStars.com: When you had the opportunity to play against the Rangers in December, Henrik said that he was nervous every time you were out on the ice. What was that experience like for you, becoming just the third set of twins to play against each other in NHL history?
Lundqvist: "It was a great feeling, a really special night all around. I think we will appreciate it even more in like 10 years. I actually didn't get to play too much that game, but hopefully we will have more opportunities in the future when we can face each other. I told him that next time we play, I'm going to get some serious (scoring) chances on him. It was really neat having all of the interviews and media attention focused on us that night. It is a little bit of history that is ours, so that is really neat."
DallasStars.com: How often did you speak to Henrik throughout the course of the season, and do you give each other advice?
Lundqvist: "We talked about once a week, but we didn't really talk about that much hockey. The majority of our hockey conversations happened before the season. He told me about how hard it is to succeed here and how good everybody is. He has given me some advice in the past like I need to shoot quicker once I get the puck. Most of the advice he has given me has been about the NHL experience as a whole."
DallasStars.com: How difficult was it for you mentally to have been assigned to Iowa for their AHL playoff run immediately upon the completion of Dallas' playoff series with Vancouver?
Lundqvist: "It was pretty tough, especially after Game Seven. It was a tough series and everyone was upset and disappointed about the loss. They told us right afterwards that we were going to Iowa. Ideally, you'd like a couple days to recover after a long series like we had with Vancouver, but we were on a plane the next day. We played with Iowa on that Wednesday, and it was like a new series, a new playoff, a new start. You have so many emotions going on in your head, but once it (the Vancouver series) was all over, you have to mentally refresh and start over. That night was pretty tough, but when we were on the plane to Iowa, we told ourselves that we had to keep our games going and even take them to a higher level. It was a good experience playing there in the playoffs and hopefully it gives me some good momentum going into next season."
DallasStars.com: Have you become accustomed to the NHL lifestyle? Has anything caught you by surprise?
Lundqvist: "I am enjoying it every day. The first few weeks in Iowa, everything was just so different to me, from the traveling to the food to the hotels. I have come to really appreciate the life here. Of course, my life is all about getting better and becoming a better hockey player every day, but it is great being here. I would say that everything around hockey is a lot easier. All of the staff here makes my job a lot easier. From the people who take care us when we travel, to the guys in here every day taking care of our equipment, they all do a great job. They let us completely focus on hockey. I don't have to worry about my skates, I don't even have to pack up my own stuff. It's really nice to be able to just focus on the game not worry about anything else at all."
DallasStars.com: How do you like the city of Dallas?
Lundqvist: "It's really nice there, and I like the weather especially. It's hot and sunny and there are plenty of things to do. Like I said before, when you come from Des Moines and the AHL, you appreciate it. There's really nothing more you could ask for. I really like the town and I have a really nice apartment now. I still have an apartment in Iowa, but I think it's getting a bit dusty. Hopefully, it will get really dusty."
DallasStars.com: Your fiancé, Amanda, joined you here in Dallas toward the end of the season. How nice was it to have her with you?
Lundqvist: "When I signed my deal with the club, she and I talked about the possibility of her moving here with me and she was very excited about that. She had her own business back home, but she really wanted to come. So it's been a really neat experience for her, too. She had lived in her old town for a long time so we had a great experience here together and we're looking forward to next season."
DallasStars.com: What is your funniest experience from your rookie season?
Lundqvist: "I remember when Patrik Stefan missed the open net in that wild game in Edmonton in January. We came back here for practice and some of the guys played a funny joke on him. They took one of his sticks and taped another blade on top of the original blade so it was twice as big. It was a huge, thick, double blade. He went out with that stick and played with it for a little bit and took some shots. He was really mad and embarrassed at first after that game, but eventually we helped him laugh about it. I think he can laugh about it today."