When Markus Naslund stepped on the ice for an off-season scrimmage in the summer of 2000, he knew very little about the 19-year-old identical twins skating on his line.
Sure, he’d heard that they were as good as fellow Swede Peter Forsberg had been at that age. But now, he’d have a chance to see for himself.
It didn’t take long for Naslund to see the skill — and reap the rewards — of playing with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
“I remember getting maybe four or five breakaways,” Naslund said during Saturday’s After Hours segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “I didn’t think much of it, but the puck all of a sudden was on my stick…That was really the first time I realized that these guys had something special.”
Naslund joined After Hours ahead of Sedin Week, a collection of celebrations the Vancouver Canucks will host to honour the franchise’s legendary twins.
Monday is “Legends Night,” in which former Canucks Naslund, Trevor Linden and Stan Smyl will attend a pre-game ceremony at Rogers Arena. On Wednesday, Henrik and Daniel will have their respective No. 33 and No. 22 jerseys retired. Then on Sunday, the Sedins will be recognized pre-game for their off-ice contributions in British Columbia.
Naslund is happy to be part of the festivities, and not just because he played with the Sedins for seven seasons in Vancouver.
All three grew up in the same town of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, where Naslund recalled watching the Sedins (seven years his junior) play ball hockey as toddlers.
Naslund didn’t recognize their real talent until many years later when he skated with them for the first time at that off-season scrimmage. But even then, he didn’t know they would both go on to win the Art Ross Trophy and surpass the thousand-point threshold.
In Canucks’ franchise history, Henrik and Daniel are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in games played, assists, points and plus/minus (for goals, Daniel is No. 1 and Henrik is No. 2).
“They made simple plays, but all of a sudden it was a scoring chance,” Naslund said. “To me, that’s a sign of a unique player that makes the difficult things look easy.”
Though it’s difficult for him to distill all the memories with Henrik and Daniel down to one, Naslund said he always enjoys recalling Game 1 of the 2007 Western Conference quarter-finals against the Dallas Stars.
The game dragged into a fourth overtime, locked at 4-4, with many players on both sides forced to eat more than 40 minutes of ice time.
“We needed somebody to step up. And obviously, they did,” Naslund said, referencing Henrik’s game-winner off a pass from Daniel.
Moments like that link the Sedins together. As did their consecutive selections in the 1999 draft (going No. 2 and No. 3 overall to Vancouver), winning the Art Ross in consecutive seasons (2009-10 for Henrik, 2010-11 for Daniel) and leading the Canucks to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Even their jersey retirements will be conducted in tandem. Sharing the same nameplate, while skating alongside each other on one team for 17 NHL seasons, has that effect, it seems.
“That’s a tough thing when they’re two people and they’re unique but they accomplished so much together,” Naslund said. “And you always put them as one — as, ‘the twins.’ But Daniel has done his thing and Henrik (has done) his.
“They’re different players, but their whole journey is so unique. And I don’t think you’ll ever see it again.”