They weren’t the flashiest, they weren’t the loudest, they weren’t the fastest.
They’re also not quite finished playing hockey in the NHL, so we shouldn’t be writing about the Sedins in the past tense just yet.
Despite the labels that cannot be placed on Henrik and Daniel Sedin, they are: the best leaders, the best ambassadors, the best people.
The Sedins are the best Vancouver Canucks of all time, on and off the ice.
The most amazing thing about this statement is you won’t see anyone disagree. That speaks to the distance between them and other all-time great Canucks, and there have been some true gems over the years.
Over the next few days there’ll be plenty written and said about how incredible the Sedins are. There will be recaps of their careers and highlight packs – and no two players could deserve it more.
So I won’t go down that path. Instead, I’ll write about a couple of experiences I had that indicate how the twins are perceived around the NHL.
In 2015, I went to Chicago to watch a Canucks game at the United Center. Now, I write about this team for Daily Hive and I haven’t attended a home game as a “fan” for years. I don’t wear a Canucks jersey around town.
Still, I find one of the most enjoyable experiences as a hockey fan is going to another city’s arena and cheering for the away team.
Oh, you’ll be taunted and mocked, and if your team scores you’ll be told to go home – but most of the time it’s all in good fun, and usually you’ll make more friends than enemies.
“You’re from Vancouver? It’s a beautiful city.”
“I need to get up there one of these days. Is it cold?”
I love the conversations that are sparked up wherever you go, before, during, and after a game when you’re wearing the other team’s jersey.
This trip to Chicago – it came during the new regime’s first year in charge. Vancouver was still competitive, the Blackhawks-Canucks rivalry was as fierce and fiery as it was from 2009-2012 (I remember Jonathon Toews breaking his stick on the bench after missing a glorious scoring chance), and more importantly, the Sedins remained near the heights of their powers – Daniel had 76 points that season, and Henrik 73.
Earlier that season Daniel scored a hat trick against the Blackhawks in a Canucks win.
As I walked through the concourse between periods I heard the jeering of some kids behind me: “The Canucks suck! Go home!”
When I turned to give it back to them in a lighthearted way, the Hawks fan continued, “Cool jersey, though. The Sedins are awesome!”
If you’re thinking this story’s a one off – a rare respectful, smart hockey fan in another city – it’s not. Since that trip to Chicago, I visited San Jose and Nashville in the same away-fan mode.
Both places gave me the same reception as in Chicago – boo Canucks, but the Sedins, though – they’re great players.
See, Henrik and Daniel were marvels – they were the first twins to play on the same team for their entire careers, they each had a season leading the league in scoring, and they truly dominated the league for a three-year stretch.
Their careers were consistent too: they played 18 NHL seasons, they scored over 1000 points each, and they came one win shy of the Stanley Cup.
That’s why they’re appreciated around the league.
Here in Vancouver, fans know them even better. Canucks fans know the Sedins as humble, generous, accountable, and loyal. They know the Sedins have taken bullets for their teammates countless times, especially over the past three seasons.
Two years ago I wrote that Henrik Sedin is the modern-day equivalent of Jean Beliveau. I wrote then: it’s a lofty comparison, but consider the way they combine class and humility with the desire to win on the ice.
“I feel blessed I had a chance to play with them, watch them grow, and just be around them everyday, because they’re special human beings.”
Those are the words of former-Canuck Markus Naslund, speaking on TSN 1040 after they announced their retirement.
Vancouverites feel that same sense of luck: at the fact the Canucks drafted the twins in 1999 and at how the Sedins chose to play their entire careers in this team’s colours – blue, green, white, red, yellow, black, salmon, pink… it’s been a long time.
When fans embraced the slogan “We Are All Canucks”, you know it was because they wanted to be the Sedins.
They started quietly, they bore criticism, they fought, they grew. They worked harder than anyone to get to the top.
As far as role models go, there simply are none better.