NEW YORK — Henrik Lundqvist finally found a game to play.
It won't be under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, or in front of a hostile crowd in Philadelphia trying to rattle the man in the red, white and blue mask. But it will be meaningful and rewarding in a unique way.
Like players and fans all across North America and the world, the New York Rangers goalie misses the NHL. Lundqvist has run the gamut of emotions as the long lockout lingers. His thirst to get back on the ice will be quenched Saturday night — however briefly — as he joins other hockey stars in giving back to people who were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Lundqvist will step on the ice in storm-damaged Atlantic City, N.J., along with Rangers teammates and foes from the Flyers and other teams to lend a helping hand to those recovering from the devastation. It won't have the intensity of a regular NHL game, but it will be filled with emotion and enjoyment.
Absolutely. It's not only the hockey fans. You want to pay back to people working in the community around New York and people that got hit by this storm, said Lundqvist, last season's Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie. I was not there, but obviously I have a lot of friends who were still there, and I had people move into my place. ...
I hope it's going to be a positive day, and that people who come in to watch the game get some energy and give the people some hope who need it.
Operation Hat Trick will be held at famed Boardwalk Hall on Saturday. All proceeds from the event will go directly to the Empire State Relief Fund, the New Jersey Hurricane Relief Fund and the American Red Cross, which is aiding New York and New Jersey families affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Brad Richards of the Rangers joined Flyers forward Scott Hartnell and partnered with Caesars Atlantic City to stage the event. Richards and Hartnell will serve as captains of the two teams that will feature other NHLers such as Martin Brodeur, Bobby Ryan, Steven Stamkos, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, James van Riemsdyk and Simon Gagne.
As of Monday, 28 players had signed up to play.
We are all overwhelmed by the damage and destruction caused to our area by Hurricane Sandy, and as professional hockey players we wanted to come together to help those who were victimized, Richards said.
The mere idea that Rangers, Flyers and other rivals could come together for a common goal is special in itself.
To have the opportunity to be able to raise money for the relief effort by participating in this game is an honor, Hartnell said.
Lundqvist has been spending time at home in Sweden. His Thanksgiving plans included an international flight back to his hockey home that hasn't had hockey since the Los Angeles Kings captured the Stanley Cup in June.
This trip should be well worth it for the seven-year NHL veteran.
LAST NEGOTIATIONS: Wednesday, Nov. 21, in New York
NEXT NEGOTIATIONS: None scheduled.
GAMES LOST: 327 (all games through Nov. 30, plus New Year's Day Winter Classic).
NEXT STEP: After a day off for Thanksgiving, negotiators from the NHL and the players' association are expected to talk today to try to figure out what to do next to get bargaining going again. The NHL turned down the union's latest offer Wednesday, and Commissioner Gary Bettman said the sides were still far apart. Union executive director Donald Fehr said the proposal would get the sides closer to a deal and added he was disappointed by the league's rejection.
WHAT WE MISSED: Only one game was lost on Thanksgiving, and it was an all-Canadian matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and Senators in Ottawa.
ON THIS DAY LAST YEAR: Forwards Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres and Ryane Clowe of the San Jose Sharks were both fined $2,500 by the NHL for separate infractions. Kaleta was punished for high-sticking Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris. Clowe received a fine for slashing Dallas Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. Clowe wasn't penalized in the game.