Any New Yorker will tell you that the pandemic drew a line in the sand between two types of people: those who fled the city in search of more comfortable accommodations amid lockdown and those who stuck it out in the very heart of it through the darkest of days, true New Yorkers.
New York Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist and Bleeker Co-Founder Jay Liddell would most certainly fall in the latter category, as both have called the city home for decades with a keen eye and understanding for what really keeps the heart of the city pumping.
Ask either of them why New York means so much and they’ll give you the same answer — it’s the people and their passion.
That’s the core of their new show, “Club30 with Henrik Lundqvist,” where the pair, who have been best friends for over 15 years, talk to guests across all industries and stages of life about their unique relationship with New York City.
“New York is just a place that has so many really incredible individuals and it’s this real microcosm of the arts and sports and business and entertainment, all kind of mashed up into this really vibrant city,” Liddell tells me. “During the pandemic, there were a lot of our friends that just kind of cleared out of the city and Henrik and I found ourselves getting together every Tuesday night, just as an excuse on the calendar to hang, order takeout, have a couple of drinks. We got into these deep conversations, and we started doing it so much and it became such a fun part of our routine. We called it the Tuesday Night Club.”
Their private club for two has become a membership club for thousands of listeners. The show is a natural extension of those conversations, where listeners feel like they’re pulling up a chair — preferably with a glass of bourbon and an open mindset.
Liddell jokes that Lundqvist has found his “hidden talent as the talent booker,” having a keen eye for sourcing guests who are passionate about whatever they do. Passion is something Lundqvist most definitely knows a thing or two about, given his 15 seasons playing goalie for the Rangers.
“I’m excited about every guest because they’re so different…it’s not comparing how much they accomplished or where they are now, but that they all have a drive and a passion for something, and they’re unique to that,” Lundqvist says. “People with a drive, with a passion for something — that’s interesting to me. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do.”
A featured guest is fellow New York Rangers legendary goalie Mike Richter, who chatted with the pair on April 13 about making his transition from hockey to the world of energy efficiency.
“Anything worth pursuing, you’re going to get your ass handed to you sometimes — you’re going to lose,” Richter tells Lundqvist of starting his company Brightcore. “There’s a lot of difficulties along the way, and I think that’s something you just have to understand and take into perspective. It’s not a perfectly straight line … nothing’s guaranteed, just like sports.”
It’s certainly something Lundqvist can relate to, joking that he went into the podcasting world “almost blind.” He credits getting “Club30” off the ground to his two guiding principles in maximizing success: mastering preparation and managing expectations.
“I always like to be well prepared. To me, when you pivot in life and do something else, I think it comes down to expectations,” Lundqvist explains to me. “You have to understand when starting something new, you can’t expect to dominate that or to master it — you just have to go in with a very open mind and try to learn and be open. It’s a process. With hockey, I played for 30 years, and you try to reach that point where you maximize it, but it takes a lot of years to get there.”
The foray into podcasting and a shift to media full-time is something new for both Lundqvist and Liddell. They’ve approached the challenge with what Liddell calls a “growth mindset,” where the common thread of authenticity shines through for the pair and the guests by admitting that in life and its ventures, you’re not always going to have it figured out from the jumping point.
“It’s kind of like being a racehorse with blinders on. You have your objective, and then the corporation or the team’s objective is to eliminate distraction for you to perform,” Liddell muses. “And the biggest challenge of being an entrepreneur, or creating something from the blank page is that you realize that you have none of that support. And you have to focus on performance, but also the ways in which the new venture becomes viable. And that’s a lot of energy. That’s a big mental shift.”
For Lundqvist, making the shift to media wasn’t necessarily something he had planned but something that organically made sense — he was always going to do something next. To any loyal hockey fan who watched him defend the net over the past three decades, it’s clear that standing still without channeling his passion and drive for life elsewhere was never something that was in the cards for him.
“I didn’t know where I was going after I was done playing, I just knew I wanted to have fun. I want to surround myself with great people and do things that inspire me,” he tells me of this next stage in his life. “There’s a creative process with media that interests me. I think that’s what’s driving me in that direction.”
The hockey legend’s days look a little different now since he’s hung up his skates, as he tells me he’s had the opportunity to spend a lot more time with his family and closest friends in New York during his retirement.
“That’s something I really appreciate,” he says humbly.
As for what’s next for Number 30 in the years ahead, it’s tough to say, but it’s certain that he won’t be shying away from anything uncharted.
“When you pivot and start something new, you have to be patient with the process,” he says cooly. “I think that’s my mindset now.”