WASHINGTON — Henrik Lundqvist looked straight into the camera and spoke haltingly, the out-of-nowhere news as difficult for him to comprehend as it must have been for fans of the Washington Capitals, his new club, the New York Rangers, his long-time employer — or any hockey team, really.
“It’s still very hard for me to process all of this,” Lundqvist said. “And kind of shocking, to be honest.”
Calling it “a pretty tough and emotional day” in a video posted on social media by the Capitals, the popular goaltender announced Thursday that he will sit out the upcoming NHL season because of a heart condition.
The man known as “King Henrik” said he has been undergoing various tests on his heart “for several weeks.” He joined the Capitals about two months ago, after 15 years with the Rangers.
“After lots of discussions with doctors around the country, and finally receiving the last results earlier this week, I unfortunately won’t be able to join the team this year,” Lundqvist said.
The 38-year-old from Sweden was bought out by the Rangers and signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal with Washington in October to try to earn his first Stanley Cup — and try to help Alex Ovechkin win a second.
Lundqvist said Thursday he had been excited to play with the Capitals, a team he said “checked every box” when he agreed to go to Washington.
The plan had been for the longtime face of the Rangers to share goaltending duties for the Capitals with 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov. The Capitals added Lundqvist to take the spot of 2016 Vezina Trophy and 2018 Stanley Cup winner Braden Holtby, who left to sign an $8.6 million, two-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks.
“Heartbreaking and emotional,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on Twitter. “I am only concerned and thinking about Henrik Lundqvist as a person and for his family’s wellbeing. We pray for his good health. We and the entire NHL family support the King.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called Lundqvist “a beloved player” and a “wonderful ambassador” for the sport.
“While we are all saddened as hockey fans that we will not be able to watch Henrik tend goal for the Capitals this season,” Bettman said, “we are also thankful that he will be getting the necessary medical care.”
Lundqvist has appeared in 887 NHL regular-season games, plus another 130 in the playoffs, and he came close to a championship in 2014, leading the Rangers to the Cup Final. He lost post-season series to the Capitals in 2009 and 2011, then eliminated them in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
But he hadn’t participated in the playoffs with New York since 2017 until two games in the qualifying round of the expanded, 24-team playoffs this past summer.
“The risk of playing without remedying my condition is too high,” Lundqvist wrote on Twitter, ”so I will spend the coming months figuring out the best course of action."
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Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press