Former Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist opens up about health, NHL playoffs, broadcasting (2024)

The most emotional and arduous moments of Henrik Lundqvist's life took place over a 12-month span.

First, he moved on from his team of 15 years, the New York Rangers, to the Washington Capitals in September 2020. Then came the shocking news that he would need open heart surgery, ultimately forcing him to walk away from the game he loved.

All of it was captured on camera -- culminating with his No. 30 jersey retirement in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden in January 2022. The film, aptly named "Open Heart," was directed by Jonathan Hock (an ESPN "30 for 30" veteran) and will debut in June at the Tribeca Film Festival. Lundqvist said the film's central question addresses what all athletes have to confront when they stop playing.

What's next?

"When I retired, I knew I didn't really have a choice, really. It was time to start looking forward," Lundqvist told USA TODAY Sports. "I appreciate the time I had on the ice so much. It makes me very happy when I think about it. But I’m also excited about what’s ahead."

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Former Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist opens up about health, NHL playoffs, broadcasting (1)

Lundqvist has not gone far from the spotlight. He almost immediately began commentating on the studio show for Rangers broadcasts on MSG Network. And he's also become a regular on TNT's studio coverage, joining the crew of Wayne Gretzky, Anson Carter, Paul Bissonnette and host Liam McHugh for the Eastern Conference Finals – where the Florida Panthers swept the Carolina Hurricanes – and will remain there for the Stanley Cup Final. It will be the first Cup final aired on TNT.

Lundqvist spoke more about the film, the start of his broadcasting journey, the NHL playoffs and more with USA TODAY Sports.

Questions and answers have been lightly edited and condensed.

How is your health these days?

Henrik Lundqvist: Pretty good. It’s been a slow process to get back. I had inflammation around my heart. It’s taken some time. I knew that might be the case. Just trying to be patient. It’s kind of on and off. Start working out and then have to slow it down again. But overall, I feel great.

Have you found peace away from the game?

HL: I’ve been in a very good place. I’m happy and excited where I’m at. What’s next, I’m very open to what’s next, see where things take me. For the longest time, it was all about hockey and it kind of dictated my life. But now there’s a lot of different things going on. Obviously, walking away from hockey, it’s a big thing for any athlete to walk away from your sport. It’s a lot of questions. When I retired, I knew I didn't really have a choice, really. It was time to start looking forward.

I appreciate the time I had on the ice so much. It makes me very happy when I think about it. But I’m also excited about what’s ahead.

What can viewers expect from the film?

HL: There was a lot that happened in my life over 12 months. So obviously there’s a lot of questions – thinking, and working on myself. Leaving the Rangers, open heart surgery, setbacks, retiring from hockey, it all happened in 12 months. It was a lot of soul-searching. But overall, I was in a very good place. I did work on myself. That helped me. I think that’s what the film is about.

When did broadcasting become the goal?

HL: What happened was I had a meeting with (Rangers owner and MSG Entertainment CEO) Jim Dolan right after I retired. When we looked at the different options and things for me to do, I wanted to be part of that organization and they wanted me to be part of it. So we kind of started with MSG Networks, and at the same time, I started talking to TNT about having a small role last year. And then this year, we created a new role for me around the Garden. I get involved in a lot of different things – on the business side and the entertainment side. I think we’re in such a unique place so it’s a lot of fun to do some media, MSG Networks, TNT here in Atlanta.

So that’s how it started. Conversations with Dolan and then one thing led to another. Obviously, media has been part of my life for so long. … It’s different to be on the other side of things, but it’s a good way for me to stay connected to the game. I think for me it’s about balance. I had such a big commitment to hockey for so long. I want a bit more flexibility in my schedule, have time for family and friends more. But just make sure the time I have is spent the right way.

What are the differences between broadcasting for MSG versus TNT?

HL: MSG is more breaking down details in the game, players. I think TNT we do more broader conversations, go into topics – it could be plays that happened and also things that we find interesting and fun. It’s maybe a little higher pace at MSG. It’s a short (window). I enjoy both. It’s more of a conversation with TNT, and MSG is a quicker pace. It’s fun to see the difference in how both shows go about their business. The goal is the same: to educate and entertain the viewer.

How does your goaltender’s perspective shine through and what does that bring to their discussions?

Former Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist opens up about health, NHL playoffs, broadcasting (2)

HL: That’s where I feel the most comfortable, is talking goaltending and breaking that down. A lot of times you think about how you self-saw the game … there’s a lot of differences between different goalies. There’s different ways of playing the position, but ultimately it comes down to one thing: stopping the shot. But for me, talking about it, you want to try and explain it so that if you didn’t play the game, you don’t spend that much time trying to understand what I'm talking about. You don’t want to try to be too technical or too complicated. I think that’s the biggest challenge. My goal is to educate about goaltending, it’s such a unique and important position.

What’s it like working with Paul Bissonnette?

HL: He’s great. He brings so much energy, positivity. He’s fun. He’s himself 100 percent. I think that's what people really enjoy watching him on TV. I think it’s fun getting different personalities and some different takes when you discuss things. But he brings it every time we’ve worked together.

Did you ever think you’d get to call Wayne Gretzky a colleague?

HL: Probably not. We’ve been having a lot of fun. Getting to know guys off-camera, obviously, you spend more time talking and sitting and discussing the game. I think that’s a big part of it. All the guys sitting there, we're used to being part of teams and great groups. I think that’s what we all love – team sports. I think it’s kind of a similar feeling.

For the four-overtime marathon between Florida and Carolina, what was that like on the desk and what do you say to each other while game keeps going?

HL: At first, it’s exciting. But when it starts going into the fourth overtime, it’s crazy. Just the bounces, so many close calls where you thought the game was over, you get ready at the desk to start the post-show. But it just kept going. Crazy. Every year, you have one or two games like that, where it just goes on forever. But it was late. It was a long day. When they finally scored, I think everyone was happy.

How were the Panthers able to win the East after being down 3-1 to the Bruins in the first round? What kind of switch gets flipped?

Former Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist opens up about health, NHL playoffs, broadcasting (3)

HL: The biggest thing when you’re down, you just have to focus on one game. You can’t think about the series as a whole. It’s too much. You just have to focus on winning one game. And in the playoffs, one game can change the momentum of a series so much. You need to be aware of that but you need to be very locked in on what you need to do in that night’s game. That’s it.

What have you seen in (Panthers goaltender Sergei) Bobrovsky's game recently?

HL: When you look at the top guys, Bob has been a top goalie for a long time. But when you go from good to great, you can have seasons back and forth where you go in between good and great, I think it’s just small adjustments. Adjustments in your focus, technical stuff. I feel like right now, watching him play, it just seems like his mind is there, his technique is strong, his reads are strong. The confidence is high.He’s been extremely good for many years. But right now it seems like he’s at the top of his game. Having fun.

Florida, for months, they’ve been playing hockey where every game mattered to them, trying to get in (to the playoffs). They have a formula for how they have to play to have success. They had a couple months where they had to bring it every night, being in a place both mentally and technically where they knew what they had to do.

Where do you get the suits?

HL: I wear a lot of different brands. Most of them are from Balani Custom, this company I’ve been working with for years. They make great suits.

Who has the best style in today’s game among current players?

HL: I think Erik Karlsson, San Jose, is always well-dressed. I know him a little bit. I run into him here and there and he’s always well-dressed. I’d have to say, overall – I joined the league in ‘05, guys dressed bad. Now it’s a big difference. Guys have really stepped up their game and I think they pay more attention to the suits and the everyday look more than they used to do in the past.

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

Former Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist opens up about health, NHL playoffs, broadcasting (2024)


Why did Henrik Lundqvist have open-heart surgery? ›

The leak got worse and my aorta started to get too big and the pressure in the heart was too high." Lundqvist, who played for the New York Rangers for over a decade before signing a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals last year, missed the 2020-21 season after having open-heart surgery in January.

What happened to Henrik Lundqvist? ›

In the 2020 offseason, Lundqvist was bought out by New York and subsequently signed a one-year contract with the Capitals. Though he had come to D.C. and had been prepping for the season, he never got to play due to his heart condition. He underwent aortic valve replacement surgery and ultimately hung up the pads.

How long did Henrik Lundqvist play for the New York Rangers? ›

He played his entire 15 season NHL career for the New York Rangers, and is the team's all-time leader in wins (459) and shutouts (64).

Did Lundqvist win a Stanley Cup? ›

Lundqvist never won the Stanley Cup. He lost in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, and in the Eastern Conference Final in 2012 and 2015. "Missed opportunities," Lundqvist said. Not enough to change how he feels about his career.

How many people survived open-heart surgery? ›

Open heart surgery survival rates

For example, a 2021 study on adults with congenital heart defects recorded a 5 year survival rate of 94.3%. But another study on adults undergoing CABG surgery recorded a slightly lower 5 year survival rate of 82.9%.

Who was the first person to perform open-heart surgery? ›

“A people who don't make provision for their own sick and suffering are not worthy of civilization.” The son of a barber, Daniel Hale Williams founded the first black-owned hospital in America, and performed the world's first successful heart surgery, in 1893.

Why do they call Henrik Lundqvist Hank? ›

I think it was my first week and I sat for breakfast with Chubbs (Jamie Benn) and Seggy and they were like, 'Yeah, we're going to call you Hank,' so, yeah, in here, I'm Hank.” Obviously, the nickname comes from Lundkvist's last name being similar his fellow Swede and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

How many times was Henrik MvP with the Rangers? ›

Lundqvist was the face of the Rangers franchise throughout the majority of his tenure with the team. In 15 seasons with the Blueshirts, Lundqvist was named the team's Most Valuable Player nine times (a franchise record), including seven consecutive seasons from 2006-07 - 2012-13 (a franchise record).

How many games did Henrik Lundqvist play for the Capitals? ›

Henrik Lundqvist on never playing a game for the Capitals: 'It was not meant to be' Legendary goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this weekend. But before he traveled to Toronto for the ceremony, he talked about the final chapter of his hockey career that never came to be.

Is Henrik Lundqvist the best goalie of all time? ›

Henrik Lundqvist, 459 wins

He's the only goaltender in NHL history to start his career with seven straight 30-win seasons. He was incredibly consistent, winning at least 20 games in each of his first 11 seasons. Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy for best NHL goaltender in 2012.

Is Lundqvist a hall of famer? ›

In 2015, Lundqvist and Sweden took the bronze medal at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. He was voted to the IIHF All‐Time Sweden Team in 2020. After a sterling goaltending career, Henrik Lundqvist was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Player Category in 2023.

What was Henrik Lundqvist's salary? ›

2020-2020 35-older

Henrik Lundqvist signed a 1 year , $1,500,000 contract with the Washington Capitals, including $1,500,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $1,500,000.

Why does a person have open-heart surgery? ›

During open-heart surgery, the surgeon will cut through the breastbone (sternotomy) and spread the ribs to access the heart. Open-heart surgery is used to treat a range of heart conditions, including heart failure, heart valve disease, arrhythmias, aneurysms and coronary artery disease.

How do they keep you alive during open-heart surgery? ›

The Heart-Lung Machine

This machine is also called a cardiopulmonary bypass machine. It pumps blood while your heart is stopped and adds oxygen to the blood before it is pumped throughout the body.

Did Geoff Tate have open-heart surgery? ›

The only thing that has slowed Tate down over the past decade was open heart surgery in June 2022 that involved installing a valve on his heart. “It was kind of a surprise to me because I didn't really have any symptoms, obvious symptoms,” Tate, 65, said.

What is the rarest heart surgery? ›

Heart transplant surgery is a last resort treatment for people who have end-stage heart failure. It involves replacing your heart with a donor's heart. This is a rare surgery because it's hard to find a donor heart. Plus, the procedure is very complex.


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