Spending an entire career with one organization used to be the norm in professional sports. But in this modern era, as player movement continually increases, it has become the exception.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist could have chosen to waive his no-movement clause and chase a Stanley Cup title with another NHL organization after the franchise's leadership announced last year they were going to reset and focus on "building the next foundation" of a championship-caliber NHL team. However, Lundqvist's loyalty to the Rangers and appreciation for the city of New York never wavered.
"The Rangers treat you in a way where you feel the history of the organization and the NHL is important," Lundqvist said in an exclusive interview with SNY during Pepsi Zero Sugar's "Stop Everything" campaign, which will give fans a chance to win a "dream skate" experience at Madison Square Garden and meet and greet with the goalie. "You connect with the older players. Being here so long you appreciate the history and the players that have been a part of this organization. You have a list of why you want to play somewhere and there are so many things that make New York and the Rangers special."
As a 21-year-old living in Sweden, Lundqvist was told by close friends that he would develop an appreciation for the city of New York before making the jump to the NHL after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL draft. He failed to understand the meaning of those conversations at the time, but after living in the Big Apple for almost 14 years, Lundqvist realized how much of a connection he had with the city.
"Playing in New York is such a unique opportunity for any athlete," Lundqvist said. "At the same time, there is so much going on in New York, you are a little fish in a big pond. There is a flow to this city where most people, no matter who you are, can blend in."
While Lundqvist, who has eclipsed Terry Sawchuk for sixth place on the NHL's all-time wins list, has always possessed a creative mind coupled with a curious personality, the goaltender continues to remain focused on perfecting his craft and being as prepared as possible to help his team turn the corner.
Teammates like Mats Zuccarello keep Lundqvist locked in to the objective at hand, challenging him in practice at every chance he gets.
"I like players that compete. I connect with players that compete day in and day out and that means in practice. If it means a lot to them, it means more to me," Lundqvist said.
It's this competition level that keeps Lundqvist focused on the present and working to grow as a team while still trying to win now, not too concerned with management's long-term plans.
"The league can change so fast, so you don't want to look so far," Lundqvist said. "You continue to push and demand a lot from everyone."
He added: "It's a lot of fun to be a part of all those great teams for years when we were competing for a Cup. Now we are in a different position trying to restart the process."
While management shifted strategies last season, Lundqvist still has his eye on the ultimate prize. The Rangers have reached the Eastern Conference Final three times since 2012, made an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 and won the Presidents' Trophy in 2015, which is awarded to the club with the best regular-season record. However, the ultimate prize has eluded the organization since the 1994 championship.
On Friday, the Rangers will honor the members of the 1994 Cup-winning team to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the pinnacle moment in the organization's history.
"They are not only great players, but they are amazing people," Lundqvist said. "We have had some retirement nights over the years and I enjoy seeing the legends of the game. The fans will show their appreciation for what they did in 1994 and how much that meant to the organization and the city."