Sedins hockey will be sorely missed
End of an era?
That’s putting it mildly!
The retirement this week of the Sedin twins from NHL hockey is for the forlorn few more than a mere retirement of two sport stars from a sport where grown men glide around on a slippery surface smashing and crashing into each other until they’re bruised and broken and their brains concussed except for the rapturous moments when Henrik and Daniel Sedin were on the ice and you knew there was a chance of pure hockey grace and beauty breaking out in the magic moments those identical twins were on the ice.
Their hockey style was often described as “tic, tac toe,” telepathic passing and a sixth sense of always knowing the location of each other and the precise time to shoot for the uncovered spot in the net instead of passing. It was like watching poetry on ice.
I know this may rub some traditional Canadian hockey fans the wrong way because they prefer the “rock ‘em, sock ‘em,” gladiatorial, goon shows championed by Don Cherry to the smooth skating, intricate passing and elegant play-making of the Sedins. And then there were “fans” that delighted in calling the Swedish brothers the “Sedin Sisters,” an ugly slur referring to the fact that the Sedins preferred scoring to fighting as favoured by Cherry and his knuckle-dragging ilk.
Well, you know what they say about sticks and stones. As for the Sedins, they never dignified the trash talk with a response. From the first day they put their skates on NHL ice as raw 19-year-olds with the Vancouver Canucks they were a class act. They answered their critics by winning two scoring titles, scoring more than 1,000 points each in their illustrious careers and in 2011 leading the Canucks to within one game of the Stanley Cup. And even though they took far more than their share of cheap shots and hits by opponents trying to break their spirit they responded like true Viking warriors with heart and courage like their great Norse ancestors.
As for the “sisters” slur, hear how former Canucks general manager Jim Benning describes the Sedins’ sisterly play. “Daniel and Henrik play big minutes, hard minutes, against the biggest and best competition in the NHL. They go to the hard areas to make plays and score goals. They aren’t finesse players off the rush; they mostly play the cycle game down low in heavy traffic and go to the front of the net. They win battles. They’re strong on pucks. . . They’re excellent players on the ice; they’re even better people off the ice, in the community.”
Benning knows of what he speaks. In 2010, the talented twins donated $1.5 million to help build the BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. They also established the Sedin Family Foundation to improve health, education and family wellness in B.C.
Whether it was visiting sick children in hospital or making countless charitable appearances, Daniel and Henrik were there and became major pillars in the Vancouver community. It’s hard to think of any other NHL player who earned the level of respect garnered by the Sedins. The great Montreal Canadiens centre Jean Beliveau was certainly one and undoubtedly there’s been a few others. But precious few.
After hearing about the twins’ retirement, I went on YouTube and watched replays of some of their famous goals. One I’ll never forget was when Henrik, deep in his own corner and surrounded by players, threw a long pass that somehow went through both teams and banked off the boards straight on to the stick of Daniel who broke over the blue line and faked the goalie to the left while dragging the puck back between his legs to the right and flipping it into the corner. Then WACK! The opposing player, who couldn’t catch Daniel, chopped him across the back of his leg causing him to lose balance and slide headfirst into the boards behind the net. Fortunately, he wasn’t injured on the play and the referee didn’t even bother to call a penalty because Daniel had already taken care of that trivial matter by depositing the puck in the net
Chalk up another classy moment for the Sedins and another cheap shot they ignored because they were always a class act. Too bad the NHL, and Canadian hockey in general, couldn’t be the same. And what more proof could there be than their two-goal performance in their final Vancouver game Thursday night? Take it from a life-long fan, there’s never been a more inspiring performance – and I’m including 1972 – in hockey history.
– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and lifetime Trail Smoke Eater fan, who still loves hockey the way the Sedin twins played it.