On Friday night, the Minnesota Wild will take on the New York Rangers for the first time since 2020, but there will be some extracurriculars to take care of first.
Long-time netminder and Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist will see his number 30 raised to the rafters before puck drop. Lundqvist will become one of only 11 players to receive the honor from the Rangers, joining the likes of Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Mark Messier and Mike Richter. A small number for a team with nearly 100 years of history. The winningest goalie in team history, Lundqvist retired in August of last year due to a heart condition.
While there will no doubt be a group of teammates from Lundqvist past in attendance on the Rangers side, the Wild will have a couple of former teammates in attendance as well. Mats Zuccarello, who played with "King Henrik" from 2010-2019, reflected on his time with the legendary goaltender and the bond they shared off the ice. "He was someone that you looked up to when you got [to the Rangers] and be able to call a friend," Zuccarello said, recalling when he joined the team as free-agent from Modo of the SHL in 2010. "We played with each other for a long time. It was the nights when him and me would go out for dinner with his wife and kids. Those were the most memorable times."
At times, Zuccarello and Lundqvist's relationship was the best "bromance" in the NHL, always paired up for media availability and Rangers video content. They had chemistry on and off the ice. "Usually, when we needed to do stuff together, he'd show up in a suit, and I'd show up in sweatpants. He's Hank," Zuccarello joked. "He's a different guy. I'm more jokey, and he's more serious. Maybe that's what he enjoys about me, and I certainly enjoy that about him. We complement each other in that way as teammates."
On the other end of the spectrum is Jonas Brodin. In Sweden, he grew up watching Lundqvist represent the country at the Olympics and in the IIHF World Hockey Championships several times. Only 12 years old when Lundqvist first made his debut for the Rangers, Brodin eventually got the chance to play with the netminder at the 2017 IIHF World Hockey Championship. "He's huge in Sweden, growing up watching him play," Brodin said. I've played with him one time at the World Championships, we won gold in Cologne, Germany. He's an awesome guy, an awesome human and a really good player. It's pretty cool to see [the ceremony]."
For Lundqvist, it's the cherry on top for a career that spanned 887 career NHL games. Nearly a decade of dominance at the position. He will go down as one of the best goalies of all time.
Everyone knows how special the ceremony will be. "It's a huge day for him and his family," Zuccarello said. "Knowing him for so long, it's going to be cool for me to experience that and be part of that."