NEW YORK — Less than two weeks after Lou Gehrig’s illness claimed the life of a close friend, Henrik Lundqvist was part of an NHL contingent recognized for his dedication to supporting the fight to find a cure for the deadly disease that has affected the hockey community in recent months and years. .
The Greater New York Chapter of the ALS Association held its annual Lou Gehrig Legacy Gala at Pier Sixty on Monday, honoring Lundqvist, the former New York Rangers goaltender, former Islanders forward and New York Rangers and Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, the late Rod Gilbert, a former Rangers forward and Hockey Hall of Famer, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Commissioner Bettman received the Jacob K. Javits Lifetime Achievement Award. Lundqvist, LaFontaine and New York Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes received the Lou Gehrig Sports Award. Gilbert’s widow, Judy Gilbert, accepted the Champion Award in memorium.
The gala raised over $100,000 through donations and a silent auction.
Lundqvist’s friend of 14 years, Chris Tschupp, a former hockey player turned model and actor who was selected by the Calgary Flames in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, died last week after a battle lasting more than four years against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS.
“The last three and a half years have been tough,” Lundqvist said. “It was hard to see. You knew what it was, ALS, but until you see someone closer to you going through this, that’s when it really hits. home and what it means for his family, his wife. That’s the hard part. So it feels really good to be here tonight for so many reasons, but certainly for Chris. He was supposed to be here tonight.
Lundqvist was introduced by former Rangers striker Adam Graves. At the end of his award acceptance speech, Lundqvist raised a glass to his late friend and received a standing ovation.
Tschupp was also recognized in a video of his life and how he lived in the later stages of ALS that was shown during the gala. It was shot in September 2022. He died at the end of October.
His widow, Sofia Grace, gave a moving speech after the video, echoing the words of Brianna LaFontaine, Pat’s daughter whose husband, Randel McCoy, is currently battling ALS, saying the acronym should stand for “A Love Story”.
Grace said Tschupp’s goal was to go to Monday’s gala to be with Lundqvist and meet Bettman and LaFontaine.
Instead, Lundqvist said they would celebrate Tschupp’s life at photographer Danny Clinch’s gallery in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Tuesday.
“He was painting at the end,” Lundqvist said. “There will be music, a celebration. He has a close-knit team around him, good friends in the hockey community as well. It will be special.
LaFontaine has spoken from his heart about what ALS means to him and its impact on his family since McCoy’s diagnosis in 2018.
He called himself “a conduit here” and said he was accepting the award on behalf of his daughter and son-in-law.
“I’m a parent first,” LaFontaine said. “It’s not something you sign up to be a part of, it kind of chooses you. It’s not like the draft. But when you’re chosen, like my son-in-law and daughter did, you are so grateful that you are not alone and that there are resources and people to help you through the tough times, because everything is new.
“The three worst letters you can hear are ALS.”
LaFontaine said McCoy gets along well, but his hands, voice and strength are limited.
“It’s about slowing down the progression,” LaFontaine said. “We were lucky there for about six months that he kind of stabilized and we’re doing our best to keep him there. The Stanley Cup here is finding a cure. If you can make the playoffs, it slows progress. And I will be forever grateful and indebted to the hockey family for showing up.”
Commissioner Bettman said he represents the NHL family in accepting the lifetime achievement award.
He mentioned Tschupp, McCoy, Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow and former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman and Hockey Hall of Famer Borje Salming in his speech. Snow and Salming are currently battling ALS.
He also talked about the work that Gilbert and his widow, Judy, have done to raise awareness about ALS. Gilbert, who died in August 2021, received the Lou Gehrig Sports Award in 2003.
“I think most people have known for long enough that I’ve been in this business, that I believe sport has a platform that can be used to make a difference in people’s lives,” Commissioner Bettman said. . “What the NHL family does to raise awareness for ALS, to help raise funds, is part of that. We are the ultimate team sport, we believe in the ultimate family and we come together to support those in need.”