The corpse of the 2011 Vancouver Canucks has been decomposing steadily for many years now. I imagine it almost looks like one of those raptor fossils in Jurassic Park, surprised by its quick demise, contorted in agony as it tried to come to terms with falling short of its life goals.
Gone is the roguish wit of The Guzzler Kevin Bieksa, taking down milk hotdog teammates and opponents alike. No more will we see the heart of Alex Burrows, slaying dragons when it seems like all is lost. The iron will of Ryan Kesler now toils in a fowler place than Vancouver. The testicular fortitude of Sami Salo, our very own Sean Bean, has moved on to watch over Juolevi in Finland. The charm and aching desire to win of Roberto Luongo has taken up living in a retirement community (we hear he’s tearing up the shuffleboard league).
Christian Ehrhoff won the Buffalo lottery and can retire on his winnings. Raffi Torres basically disintegrated his knee, but one hopes he’s still celebrating goals like a lunatic in a men’s league somewhere in the world. Higgins, well, he’s doing radio now, and if we know him, he’s ab crunching every day. Lapierre took the Wild Desjardins ride at the Olympics last we saw him.
Alex Edler, well, he’s still here for now, loyally breaking sticks every chance he gets, but the man is a robot, which doesn’t allow him an easy narrative when describing his legacy. Replace “sticks” with “his body” and you can use that same sentence for Chris Tanev.
The main thing that remains of that 2011 team, however, is its soul. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, twins who grew up before our very eyes. Twins who saw us through the West Coast Express deconstruction, up to the thrilling Stanley Cup run, and steadfastly steered the ship through the rocky waters of Torts and Willie Desjardins.
To many Canucks fans, their fandom started at the same time the Sedins entered the league. They now face for the first time a world without the two fellows from Örnsköldsvik wearing the orca next year.
Yes, as you’ve all heard by now, the twins have announced that this will indeed be their final NHL season.
It shouldn’t come as a shock, really. When you have players lining up to shake their hands and express their appreciation to the Sedins after games, you knew their time might be coming to a close. You also knew the Sedins would be the last people on earth to drag out a retirement tour.
Hell, the very fact they gave people a heads up for the last two home games of the season is more of a shock than anything.
You always get the feeling the Sedins would rather follow Homer Simpson back into the bushes instead of making a big fuss about themselves. One can only imagine the arm twisting it took to get them to agree to announcing it with two home games left.
But that’s what makes the Sedins such special players, really.
That despite the fact they are Hall of Fame worthy players, it was what they did as human beings that will remain their lasting legacy in this town. Sure, we could go on and on for days about what they did on the ice. The trophies they won. The playoff runs they had. The magic on the ice they performed. The Olympic gold medal. Their rise from grinding it out on the third line with Trent Klatt to taking over the NHL and winning scoring titles, one a piece, in 2010 and 2011. Their consistent production throughout their later years. If you look at it from a strictly on-ice performance level, it would take you a long time to run out of great things to say about the Sedins’ NHL career.
But their lasting legacy is what they were off the ice, more than anything.
Try and find a bad word about the Sedins, and you’ll find yourself faced with an impossible task. And that’s kind of a neat things in sports, something that doesn’t happen very often. To quote a conversation from Twitter, “star players who are better people than athletes is next level sh*t.”
And that’s not to come down on other athletes, mind you. If you’re out there playing a game you love, and you just want to party and enjoy it? Have at it! You’ve earned that right, and not everyone has to be a role model.
But there is something special about cheering on someone, knowing that not only are you cheering on a good player, but you’re cheering on a good person. Those are the kinds of people you want to see succeed more than anything, and those are the kinds of players that can stick in your heart and memory forever.
Of course, Vancouver wasn’t always such a welcoming place for the Sedins to play in.
This market can devour its own with the best of them (just ask Elliotte Friedman). Remember when the twins first arrived in the city? Rosy cheeked young men looking like they’d be more worried about who their prom date was than who their first linemate would be? They entered the team under the shadow of the up and coming West Coast Express. Top draft picks for a team on the rise, with all the expectations of the world thrust upon them to be part of the Stanley Cup solution on day one. There was a draft report I remember reading that debated not whether they would be 100-point players ever, but whether they would hit 100 point seasons in their first year, or second.
Needless to say, their rookie seasons didn’t exactly light the flames of passion for many in this fanbase. Daniel had 34 points, Henrik just 29. Three seasons of 30+ point production, many of the games playing with Klatt. The grinding shifts of the early Sedins were far removed from the magic they’d soon become.
People got angry that Marc Crawford continued to give them power-play time game after game. That Crawford didn’t healthy scratch them enough. And to be fair, visually, the Sedins were not the players we know them as now. They got beat up a lot in their first few seasons. Stick thin, they got pushed around and bullied by NHL opposition.
It was easy to watch them play and wonder if they would even last more than a few seasons in the NHL. How often did you see a Sedin got knocked over and end up on his back? People would moan in disbelief at the pair of turtles the Canucks had apparently drafted. It couldn’t have been easy for them to not only adjust to a new country, but also a market that demands so much from its players.
As usual, though, the Sedins simply smiled and carried on. Continuing to get better and better, nary a single negative word coming from their lips. It would become a Sedin calling card to carry their head high, no matter the circumstances, the kind of attitude that would later seem them appointed captain and alternate captain of the team.
People in Vancouver began to embrace the twins as the seasons wore on. The day things really changed, though? It was when the Canucks tried a bold move of giving the twins a skilled linemate. No offence to Jason King, but the Mattress Line had nothing on the season the Canucks brought in Anson Carter.
All of a sudden those grinding shifts where the Sedins had the opposition running in circles, the ones that seemingly died the minute they hit Klatt’s stick? Now those shifts were ending with Anson Carter ripping home a goal. Now there was a player ready to dance to the same beat with the twins (presumably an ABBA song), cycling the puck down low, and heading to the net with a scorers instinct and hands. Before you knew it, the Canucks had two 24-year-old kids on the team putting up a 75 and 71-point season. Their season with Anson was a foreshadowing of the ascension of Alex Burrows to becoming their trigger man for many seasons.
Now despite the rise of the twins on a team that still had Bertuzzi, Morrison, and Naslund, they managed to miss the playoffs in 2006. The mental hangover from the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident seemed to be too much to overcome for the old core. Suddenly the team had became the twins’ team, and it did so without missing much of a beat. Add in a franchise goalie in Roberto Luongo, and now you had the makings of the 2011 core starting to take shape.
Yes, Vancouver may have started out as a harsh environment for the Sedins, but the city finally caught on to what extraordinary players we had on our hands. We began to appreciate and revel in their Sedinery, holding them aloft with pride. What finally cemented the Sedins firmly in the hearts of Canucks fan, though, was that infamous 2011 Stanley Cup run. Not just for the talent they displayed, but for what the chase for the Cup taught us.
You see, 2011 changed us all in Vancouver. In what remains one of hockey’s greatest mysteries, somehow the 2011 Boston Bruins were lauded as “the good guys” in hockey, playing the game “the right way.” The Canucks? Derided from seemingly every corner of the hockey world. People hated that 2011 Vancouver team. Just absolutely hated them. And sure, Bieksa, Lapierre, Kesler and Burrows can make anyone’s blood boil at times, but the degree to which Boston was promoted to sainthood in 2011 boggles the mind. We still hear discussions about how Shawn Thornton of all people “really turned things around” for that angelic Bruins team.
You would think the Sedins would earn some respect from some people outside the market, some desire to see them win the Cup, but it was few and far between.
That doesn’t even get into the bizarre scenario where Roberto Luongo was attacked for pumping some tires in a post game comment, while Tim Thomas was embraced after punching Henrik Sedin in the face. The 2011 Vancouver Canucks were the world’s pinata, and we were all invited to watch as people lined up to take swings at them. Just go to 2012 when the LA Kings booted the Canucks out of the playoffs and see how many people loved their “you’re welcome” tweet afterwards.
To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you're welcome.
— LA Kings (@LAKings) April 12, 2012
And sure, if you’re not from this market, you can view this as a bit of a victim complex. I don’t doubt I have some bias at play and at times we can lean too much into the “world is against us” in BC. But I dare you to find a Final where the media and fan coverage was as one-sided as it was then during that 2011 series. Damien Cox and Steve Simmons seemed to be in 50 Shades of Grey euphoric pleasure as they took turns beating up the Canucks in print and on air.
It shouldn’t be lost on anybody that on the day the Sedins announced they were retiring, there was 2011 Bruin hero Brad Marchand being fined yet again for another dangerous play, playing the game “the right way” I’m sure according to some, this time after cross checking a player in the face. I saw one person decry “What else do you expect Marchand to do with players lining up to hit him?”
I don’t know, maybe not deliver illegal hits? Feels like there a lot of other options to take here. But I digress.
After 2011, Vancouver became extra protective of the twins. If anyone came after them, Canucks fans circled the wagons to protect their boys. The twins became a part of our culture forever after 2011, almost figureheads for the idea that Vancouver never quite got the respect it probably deserved. The Sedins would be the last people to demand respect, so Vancouver fans now line up to defend their honour and let people know what amazing players they were. And a large part of that is driven by the fact of what kind of human beings they are. Selfless, giving, hard working boys from Sweden, who gave every ounce of sweat and blood they had to this franchise.
And therein lies the beauty of the Sedin twins. Sure, maybe they didn’t hand out punishing hits. Maybe they didn’t have the witty one liners to dish out in the scrums. But you would be hard pressed to find two mentally stronger plays than Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They not only survived the harsh market of Vancouver, they thrived in it. If you wanted to give a seminar to any young player about how to become a professional hockey player, you’d beg the Sedins to deliver it.
Not once did they complain as they were given new linemate after new linemate. Each and every time they talked up the ability of each person they played with. Whether it was pumping the tires of Jesse Schultz, or lauding the abilities of Steve Bernier, they never said a discouraging word about any of them. I can guarantee you if I had been given a one game contract to play with the Twins they would have found a way to talk around my complete lack of skating ability and talent to praise me somehow.
“Yeah, Wyatt’s desire to win is something else, it’s pretty special. We’re pretty excited to see him get a game in here. We know he’s going to try his best.”
Every coach they played under, they would never question them. It didn’t matter what assignments were given to the them, they would simply soldier on and lead by example. Hamhuis on the power play despite his scientifically unexplainable ability to not be able to score on a back door pass?
Hank and Dank would be there post-game talking about how they asked the coach to put Hammer out there with them, talking up his power play skills. They would always be there to back their boys up, no matter the circumstances.
Even when they had more then earned the right to question decisions, and we had to witness the absurd Calgary playoff series under Willie Desjardins when he refused to lean on the twins, they stood by the team. If ever there was the time for Hank Sedin to go “OK, look, I don’t mean to question the coach, but what the **** Willie, put us on the god damn ice.”, he instead continued to lead by example and let his play on the ice do the talking.
Even in their final year, producing at the same rate as last year but in a much more diminished role, they still smiled and did their thing, never causing any issues or controversy for rookie coach Travis Green. They were straight up professionals day in and day out until the very end.
This is why you will find countless stories about players talking about how the Sedins taught them to be a pro.
This is why you will find countless stories about players talking about looking up to the Sedins.
Most tellingly, this is why you will probably only hear a tiny fraction of all the good deeds the Sedins did for the people of BC. Whether it was over tipping on food orders, signing autographs when they were dead tired, or the thousands upon thousands of hours (and money) they put into charities, the Sedins fingerprints are all over this city. And none of it was done for publicity. They simply did it because that’s who they are. Great NHL players, even better human beings.
This is why the Sedins are loved by Canucks fans. This is why the Sedins are respected around the league. Because not only did they display a level of talent on the ice you rarely see, but they matched it, and exceeded it, off the ice as well.
Hell, let’s not even beat around the bush here. Final home game of the season, just raise the Sedins numbers to the rafters. There could be no better numbers to hang in a building, immortalized forever, than 22 and 33.
And if we know the Sedins, Henrik and Daniel will be timing the banners being raised to the ceiling to see which one gets to the top first.