At Åre, Jämtland, Sweden, March 2, 1982, the Lundqvist family welcomed the births of identical twin boys. Henrik arrived first with Joel following 40 minutes later. Despite living in a small town of 1,200 residents in the shadow of alpine skiing mountains, the boys began skating on an iced-over sandpit in kindergarten. Because his company sponsored the professional team Västra Frölunda HC, Peter Lundqvist (ski instructor) brought his sons to games at Scandinavium, Gothenburg, and the boys became big fans.
In 1989-90, when they were 8, the brothers joined their first hockey organization, Järpens IF. Henrik wrote that the goalie’s gear fascinated him, and that “in rural Sweden, this kid is the coolest person” he had seen. It changed his life when the coach pointed to the other net and asked, “Who wants to play goalie?” According to Henrik, he did not have the courage to raise his hand, but Joel knew and raised it for him saying, “My brother!” When Henrik was all strapped into the pads, he felt like his “hero Pekka Lindmark, the goalie for the Swedish national team,” minus the mustache. He imitated Lindmark, tapping both posts with his stick and squaring up, but then he glided back all the way into the net and fell under the weight of the pads. Henrik wrote to his younger self, “As you’re laying there on the ice, completely helpless, your own brother will skate down on a breakaway and bury the puck in the open net. He’ll skate away with a big smile on his face, arms in the air, while you lay there staring at the puck in the back of the net.”
As children, the brothers frequently competed one-on-one on the nearby frozen lake “switching on and off doing the commentary.” Henrik said, “We skated before that and we took turns, he was in the net a couple times. But in the first practice [with a youth team], I was the goalie.” Joel later compared them, “When we were smaller kids, we were more like one person. But when we got to be 16 or 17, we had our own personalities. He’s a goalie so he’s maybe stronger about himself. I’m more like a team player; he’s a team player, but as a goalie you’re more left alone. If he had played forward, he would be a goal scorer, because he likes to be in front. I’m a hard worker, a two-way player.”
A few years later, in 1993, the Lundqvist family moved south to Båstad, Skåne (for their sister Gabriella’s tennis career), and the younger brothers played for Rögle BK. They were also selected for the regional team between 1995 and 1997. Henrik remembered his father driving them home from practices in his gray BMW as they did homework in the back. Peter would tell them, “Dream big. Picture yourself playing for Frölunda. Picture yourself playing for Sweden. Picture yourself pulling on the sweater.” When Rögle played for the 1998 Scandinavium Cup in Gothenburg, the Lundqvist twins were scouted by their favorite team, Frölunda.
The twins were only 16 when they left home to play for the Västra Frölunda HC franchise. They started out playing for the Junior and U18 teams. “When you go off to play for Frölunda, hockey will get pretty serious pretty fast. The pressure will go up every step of the way,” wrote Henrik. Then, in 2000, the Lundquvist brothers were drafted by the NHL. Joel was selected 68th overall by the Dallas Stars, and Henrik was drafted 205th overall (as the 22nd goaltender) by the New York Rangers. From that point, the twins began playing an increasing number of games with Västra Frölunda’s professional club.
Henrik began collecting awards and breaking records. He won the Honken Trophy (as Swedish goalie of the year) in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Also in 2005, having broken four Swedish records (lowest goals against average (1.05), highest save percentage (.962), longest goalless streak (at 172:29) and most shutouts in a season (6)), Henrik received the Golden Puck (Guldpucken) as MVP and the Gold Helmet (Guldhjälmen) as the player-voted MVP. That was all while leading Frölunda through four playoffs and to titles in 2003 and 2005.
That marked the end of Henrik and Joel playing together for Frölunda. Henrik began his long career with the Rangers in the 2005-06 season, while Joel remained with Frölunda an extra year. After debuting on October 8 and earning his first NHL shutout on October 17, Henrik broke all kinds of Rangers rookie records. Joel commented, “I’m not surprised he’s played in the NHL. He had three or four really good years in Sweden, but I’m surprised how really big he has become in New York.”
Since then, Henrik has racked up the recognition and records, both for the Rangers and overall in the NHL. On the sillier side, he was named “Best Dressed” in Sweden in 2004, made People Magazine’s top 100 “Most Beautiful People” in 2006, and was in Page Six Magazine’s top 25 “Best Dressed” in 2008. He received the Vezina Trophy in 2012. On February 11, 2017, he became the first European-born, the first Rangers, and the quickest goalie to win 400 games. On January 16, 2018, he became the only NHL goalie to win at least 20 in 13 straight seasons. Most recently, on January 19, 2019, Henrik passed Terry Sawchuk to hold sixth place on the all-time win list, and he did it in 131 fewer games. He currently has 448 wins, six fewer than fifth-place Curtis Joseph and 36 fewer than fourth-place Ed Belfour. Henrik has the most NHL wins by a European-born goaltender.
In 2006, as a center, Joel signed a one-year, entry-level, two-way contract with the Stars and began playing for the AHL Iowa Stars, scoring 38 points in 40 games. He was first called up in early December 2006, and he soon sent Henrik a text stating, “’They have a great scorer in Dallas right now, so you better be ready.” Henrik laughed, “I realized right away that he was called up.” After playing four games with Dallas, Joel was returned to Iowa, only to come back to Dallas when Mike Modano was injured.
On December 14, 2006, at the American Airlines Center, the 24-year-old Lundqvist twins played against each other for the first time. “It’s a pretty big deal for both of us,” said Henrik. “We’ve never played against each other.” They became the third set of twins to play against each other in the NHL. Patrik and Peter Sundstrom played 18 games against each other, and Rich and Ron Sutter played their 17th and final game as opponents on March 14, 1994. The Lundqvists were the only twin set to feature a goalie and a forward. Henrik confessed, “I’m excited, but it feels a little bit strange, I’ll tell you that.” The Rangers won 5-2.
Joel scored his first NHL goal on January 17, 2007 and finished the season with six points in 36 games. He yo-yoed back and forth between Dallas and Iowa over the course of three seasons. In November 2007, Henrik had commiserated, “The only thing I can do is just push him and try to motivate him. I realized it was tough for him. He worked so hard last year to be up, so it was a big surprise to get sent down. It was tough for him, but things change so fast here.” Whereas, Joel said of his twin, “He’s really playing well. It’s awesome. I’m really, really proud of him. It’s a special feeling.”
In 2009, Joel returned to his true team, Frölunda HC, and he soon became team captain. He led them to back-to-back championships of the Champions Hockey League, earning himself MVP honors.
Throughout their professional careers, the Lundqvist brothers frequently have represented Sweden in international play. Henrik participated in three Olympics, winning gold in 2006 and silver in 2014. He also earned silver medals at the 2003 and 2004 World Championships. Joel has played in at least six World Championships, earning gold in 2006, bronze in 2009, gold in 2013, bronze in 2014, and gold in 2017.
For the most recent World Championship gold, in 2017, the brothers played together for the first time in 12 years. As captain of the Swedish team, Joel reached out to Henrik after the Rangers’ playoffs ended early. Joel said, “I wanted him to come, for sure, but I wanted it to be his decision. I told him how great it was here in Cologne and that we had a great team and that it would be awesome to play together again.” Henrik decided he would join Joel for the remaining five games. “When I looked at why I wanted to come, the first thing was simply playing for Team Sweden. I don’t know how many other times I will get the opportunity to play for my country.” When the final against Canada ended in a shootout, Henrik blocked all four shots to give Sweden a 2-1 win and their tenth World Championship title. “I had tears in my eyes, standing on the ice with my brother,” Henrik said. “This is what I dreamed of when I came over here from New York. I’ve dreamed of this since I was a kid.” Joel added, “We grew up watching Team Sweden play in the world championship, and to be here today together and with a gold medal, it’s a dream come true for sure.” About two months past their 35th birthday, the Lundqvist twins shared gold.