TORONTO — To save the best for last is a timeless cliché.
But that was the only adequate setup for one of the sport’s biggest stars, Henrik Lundqvist, as he was officially enshrined in the regal Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night.
It was only fitting for the hype of the weekend, which celebrated hockey’s greatest contributors, to culminate with Lundqvist’s reflection on the highest honor of his career.
With all due respect to the six other inductees — Pierre Turgeon, Caroline Ouellette, Tom Barrasso, Mike Vernon, Ken Hitchcock and the late Pierre Lacroix — the best really does have to come last.
That is not to say that the aforementioned players, coach and manager weren’t the best at what they did when they did it.
There is a reason, however, why each and every presenter and speaker in Toronto referenced Lundqvist last.
Why else would Lundqvist be perfectly photoshopped front and center of all the inductees in the marketing campaign for the annual event?
There is simply no one who shines brighter on a big stage than Henrik Lundqvist.
No one quite dons the stardom like he does.
Someone with that kind of flare, swagger and allure should be savored until the very end.
“When I think about how it started, a 7-by-3 meter, big sandpit in kindergarten up in Are, Sweden, to Madison Square Garden and now the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Lundqvist said. “It’s just an incredible feeling. I try to remember what I was thinking back then as an 8-year-old skating around with so much love for the game of hockey, I remember I had one big concern that I actually expressed to my grandmother after practice one day.
“What if I get stuck in this small town and nobody will ever see how good I am? I find it kind of ironic that my early concerns eventually led me to the big stage on Broadway. It’s almost like it was meant to be.”
Perhaps playing 15 years in a hustling and bustling New York City, while competing in the World’s Most Famous Arena and navigating the toughest media market had a role in Lundqvist’s ability to relish his celebrity.
No matter whether he was born for it or ushered into it, Lundqvist took to the fame effortlessly.
Whether he is sporting a perfectly tailored suit or mounds of goalie padding, the Swede commands attention wherever he goes.
That continued to ring true as Lundqvist took the stage for his induction speech to the loudest cheers of the night, and then a “HEN-RIK” chant at the conclusion of his address.
Just like so many Rangers games had ended during his career.
“I want to say a few things to the Rangers organization, which by the way feels like family,” said Lundqvist, who is not only the winningest goalie in team history, but also earned the most shutouts and set the record for most playoff wins. “Let me start with Mr. Jim Dolan. Thank you for the support you showed me and my family throughout my career and I’m so happy to continue being part of the MSG family. It feels like home.
“I want to thank Mr. Glen Sather. I’ll never forget our first meeting back in Gothenburg back in 2005, it was about six months before I joined the Rangers. Throughout my career in New York, your presence was always felt around the rink and I have so much respect for you as a person.
“To the Rangers fans, for the love and support you showed me throughout my career and continue to do as I’ve run into so many of you in New York City and around the world.”
Dolan, the team’s owner, president and general manager Chris Drury, Sather, a senior adviser, and director of goaltending Benoit Allaire, who received a special shoutout from Lundquist, watched as a legend of their organization took his rightful place among the legends of the game.
Lundqvist may have ultimately transcended Manhattan, but what is it that they say? If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
Lundqvist bulldozed his way out of a small town in Sweden, conquered the concrete jungle of NYC and settled atop the game’s pinnacle Monday night in Toronto.
Nobody knows how to close out a show like The King.