TORONTO -- Henrik Lundqvist is so good-looking, he makes me sick. In the flesh, he looks as though he's been custom-made to make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves.
He must stare at mortals the way the rest of us look into funhouse mirrors, amused and repulsed at the same time. His eyes are as bright and electric as lightning. His nose has facets like a diamond. His teeth set some new standard for whiteness, and his chin is sharp enough to be used as a surgical instrument. I can't even begin to describe his hair without wanting to punch a wall. A man with hair such as his doesn't deserve anything more out of life. His hair alone should be blessing enough.
Except Lundqvist also gets to be one of hockey's greatest goalies and Swedish. His nickname is King. He has a picture-perfect family and a seven-year, $59.5 million contract. He has fabulous taste in clothes and a body like a mannequin. For a hobby, he decided to learn to play guitar. Now he's good at playing the guitar, because of course he is. I go through the first six stages of grief just thinking about Lundqvist and his gifts. I never reach the mythical seventh stage, acceptance. I just go back to disbelief and start the vicious cycle again.
How crippling is my envy? Before their goalie was sidelined from the World Cup opener with an illness, I decided to talk to Lundqvist's teammates and ask them to betray his most private flaws. Who better to reveal his weaknesses and insecurities? I didn't need a tragic, secret curse. I'm not a psycho. I just needed some glimmer of hope that Lundqvist isn't as perfect as he seems. I'd take a slightly irregular digestive system.
"He has it all, to be honest," Daniel Sedin said.
That's not helpful, Daniel.
"I know, but that's all I can say. The one thing that impresses me most about him -- "
Daniel, I don't need to hear this.
" -- is his winning mentality. He wants to win at everything he does. That's his real strength."
Great. I thought it was his hair.
Someone told me to talk to Anton Stralman. He knows Lundqvist as well as anybody, and he wouldn't be afraid to chirp him. No word of a lie, this is exactly how that conversation went:
"What? You want to know what he sucks at?" Stralman said. "That's a good question. He's pretty intimidating."
Stralman then looked at the ceiling for a full minute. "I'm thinking hard here," he said. "He's very superstitious. Is that a weakness? I guess most players are. There's nothing unique there."
Stralman thought for two more minutes. He actually drummed his fingers on a table. "I mean, there must be something," he said. "I just can't find it right now."
He asked if I could give him a few more minutes to think about it.
In the meantime, I thought one of Lundqvist's frustrated backups would be only too happy to vent. Imagine being Sweden's second-best goalie, and Lundqvist is the one guy in line ahead of you? I asked Jacob Markstrom whether he'd seen Lundqvist be inept at anything.
"Not that I can think of," Markstrom said. "Just look at him. I can't think of anything bad about him. Just watching him makes me play better."
Before I vomited in the garbage can beside him, Markstrom said Carl Hagelin might be able to help.
"He can be in his own world at times," Hagelin said. "If you're having a discussion, he can kind of float away and not really know what's going on."
OK! Henrik Lundqvist occasionally gets lost in thought. It wasn't much, but it was something.
Unfortunately, Hagelin continued. "I don't know if that's a bad thing," he said. "Sometimes that's a good thing."
Like Stralman talking about superstition, Hagelin couldn't quite make himself believe that he'd uncovered a flaw in his shimmering teammate. Lundqvist seems so invincible that when people think they've found a weakness in him, they convince themselves that it must in fact be a strength.
Hagelin thought some more. "He's awful at golf," he said. "His swing is really bad. He doesn't bring the club all the way back. He looks like he's 75 years old when he swings."
Does that bother him?
"No," Hagelin said. "I don't think he cares."
I went back to Stralman. "You find anything?" he asked hopefully, as though he needed this as badly I did.
Golf, I said. I guess he isn't awesome at golf.
"Here's the thing," Stralman said. "That's what I was thinking about, but in Washington, we were out playing. It was me,Loui [Eriksson] and him. And he won. I was going to say golf, but I'm even worse."
We all are, Anton. We're all worse at everything.
Finally, dejectedly, I approached the King himself. I could barely stand to look at him. I felt like the "before" picture in some ridiculous diet or plastic surgery ad; he was the impossible "after."
"Henrik," I said, and I surprised myself by how much pleading was in my voice. "Are you bad at anything?"
He smiled, and I could see my anxious face reflected in every one of his shining teeth.
"There are a lot of things," he said. "We don't have that much time to talk about them all."
There is Lundqvist's weakness. He is a terrible liar. I told him so.
"No, there's a lot," he said. "But you try to focus on the positive things when you're an athlete, especially as a goalie. You don't like to talk about your flaws. It's better to focus on the good things."
Focus on the good things.
He smiled again. He really does have incredible teeth.
Henrik Lundqvist, the suave Swede with the great teeth, isn't perfect, people. Or is he?
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