Happy 35th birthday, Henrik Lundqvist! But more because of the 35 part than the birthday part.
King Henrik’s 2-1 victory over the Bruins on Thursday was a happy respite from a week of gloomy news as New York-area teams grappled with one of the toughest things in sports: phasing out aging stars.
This has been happening forever, of course, often in the Bronx, given the Yankees’ historical success. Cue image of Babe Ruth looking forlorn in a Boston Braves uniform, or of assorted farewells from the Core Four.
But sometimes the sands in the hourglass overflow and swamp us with the tides of change all at once.
To illustrate, let’s start by turning back the clock a mere five years, to early March 2012, when we all were younger and more innocent.
The Jets’ Darrelle Revis was a reigning first-team All-Pro cornerback. The Giants’ Eli Manning was the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony was on his way to a third-team All-NBA spot and later that calendar year would begin a season that ended with 54 regular-season victories.
The Mets’ David Wright was in spring training preparing for a season that would land him sixth in National League MVP voting.
The Rangers’ Lundqvist was on his way to a Vezina Trophy.
But superstar athlete years are like dog years, and as with your pet, their lifespans require focused cherishment before things, um, start to go wrong. So, about this week . . .
On Monday, Anthony, 32, misfired on an open three-pointer at the buzzer in a 92-91 loss to the Raptors — less than a week after the trade deadline passed amid speculation he might be leaving then, and now perhaps in the offseason. (He missed another potential game-winner with six seconds left against the 76ers Friday.)
On Tuesday, the Jets informed Revis, 31, a probable future Hall of Famer, that they would release him after a profoundly disappointing season. (He followed Nick Mangold, a fellow 2011 All-Pro, out the door.)
On Wednesday, Giants coach Ben McAdoo pointedly criticized Manning, 36, for his role in the offense’s struggles in 2016, a few weeks after general manager Jerry Reese acknowledged the search for Eli’s successor must begin.
On Thursday, Wright, 34, met with reporters in Florida to discuss his latest physical setback, a shoulder impingement that prevents him from throwing properly — a relevant part of a third baseman’s job description.
Even Lundqvist has had his ups and downs this season and can see the end on the horizon as he seeks the Rangers’ second Stanley Cup in 77 years.
These inevitable transitions tend to be harder on the athletes than on fans or team executives, who are conditioned to understand and accept the cutthroat, bottom-line nature of the sports meritocracy.
Sure, veteran stars have earned more money than their great-grandchildren will need, but that does not remove the sting of sports obsolescence. For the rest of us, it’s part of the show. The parade marches on.
Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have as much to do with the 2017 Yankees as Ruth and Lou Gehrig do. Oops, sorry, forgot A-Rod’s sweet, $21-million special instructor gig. But the point is, it’s Gary Sanchez’s turn.
And Kristaps Porzingis’. And Odell Beckham Jr.’s. And Leonard Williams’. And Noah Syndergaard’s.
It’s OK, really. But this must be said, too: Thanks for the memories, guys!