By Iain MacIntyre in Vancouver
By Iain MacIntyre in Vancouver
There is so much to Daniel and Henrik Sedin that made them great. Just ask their coaches, teammates and opponents.

When a question at their retirement press conference this week was prefaced by a reminder that everyone says that Daniel and Henrik Sedin are even better people than they are players, Hank joked: “It might mean that we’re terrible players.”

The Sedins have wicked senses of humour. We just never saw it much in front of cameras and microphones. There is so much to the Sedins, so many things that made them great, that we couldn’t see: their physical toughness, their inner strength and resilience, their burning drive to be the best, their leadership in the dressing room and their goodness everywhere.

Sedin twins final home game on Sportsnet
Daniel and Henrik Sedin will play their final home game with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, April 5 against the Arizona Coyotes. Watch the game on Sportsnet Pacific, East, Ontario, 360 and Sportsnet Now at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET.

Nobody foresaw the Hall of Fame careers they would build as linemates during 17 National Hockey League seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. Even the identical twins, who saw everything on the ice, didn’t envision it going this way.

It took a Houdini act by former general manager Brian Burke just to draft both of them in 1999 — making trades with Chicago and Tampa Bay to get two of the top three picks — a lot of nurturing by coaches and teammates to help them through a difficult transition to the NHL, and then unfathomable strength and character from the Sedins to become two of the best players in the world even as they were criticized like few stars in NHL history.

Teammates and opponents list the Sedins' work ethic as among their greatest attributes

Brian Burke It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked on a deal or a series of deals in my life. I was up the night before [the draft with Tampa GM] Rick Dudley. Rick Dudley’s a tough man and we were really hollering at each other. He said, “You’re not going to bully me, and if you were in this hotel I’d come up and kick your ass.” With Rick Dudley, that’s a realistic threat. They were well worth it.

There are two people who deserve the most credit for the Sedins. One is Thomas Gradin, who was our Swedish scout. And the other was [coach] Marc Crawford, who turned them into players.

Marc Crawford I had them for five years, six if you count the lockout year. And to this day, I have to look and see, OK, is this Henrik? No, it’s Daniel. One time Daniel missed a faceoff assignment in a game early in his career. And I just went up one side of him and down the other. He never said a word to me. But he was waiting for me as I was walking out to go to the bench for the second period. He said: “I just want you to know, that was me.” I’d been yelling at Henrik.

Whenever they were up to the physical battle of the game, they usually performed really well. When they weren’t up to it, you usually saw them on the ice quite a bit because they were getting knocked down. As they evolved, their strength evolved and they stopped being knocked down. As simple as that sounds, that was the big change in their game for them to become more elite players.

Trevor Linden (Canucks president and former teammate) When they first came to the league… they weren’t fit. They weren’t in shape. No one put more time in in the summers and committed themselves to be as good as they could be as these guys. They totally changed their bodies and their overall fitness. That spoke to their desire to be the best they could be.

I was amazed how skilled and smart they were. They were going through a tough time… (but) I saw a couple of young kids who were really focused on being good pros.

Alain Vigneault (succeeded Crawford as Canucks coach in 2006) First time I met them, you could tell right away they were special individuals. They wanted to be really good. They wanted to do whatever a coach or coaching staff would say. When I came on board, we had just traded Todd Bertuzzi for Roberto Luongo. But there was still Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund and they were ‘the guys.’ It didn’t take us long to realize, these were the new guys. They basically took Brendan and Markus’s ice time as the go-to guys, and they became elite players. Both of them won MVP titles.

Todd Bertuzzi When you take over a team as far as leaders, it’s huge accountability, a lot of responsibility. I knew when I was leaving they were under good watch with Nazzy and Mo. And when Nazzy and Mo officially moved on, that’s when they really took a step. They basically made that team their team and ended up taking it to the finals. They exceeded all my expectations at the end.

It was two people in one. That’s what the joke was always about, but it really was [true]. They just knew where to play. For about 15 years, they made their winger a lot of money.

Alex Burrows (former Sedins winger) I watched Anson Carter, watched a number of linemates play with them… and what I came out with was: Give them the puck as many times as possible, and go to the net and have your stick on the ice. Be ready at all times to get the puck back because they’re going to make those crazy saucer passes — forehand, backhand, no-look, through the legs.

They play the right way. They don’t cheat for offence. They play a 200-foot game. They talk a lot. It’s a little bit like a soccer mentality; it’s a lot of give-and-go, short passes…. They just outsmart you by moving the puck.

Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks forward) They kind of came up with their own style to be successful. If you look at the league, it’s tough to go one on one. I think they figured that out… and realized it’s better to go two on one. Work the give-and-go. Pass it, move your body, and then get it back. Even to this day, they’re so tough to play against and so tough to defend because you really don’t know what they’re going to do next.

Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators defenceman) They’re smart players. They’re not the most physical players, not the fastest, they don’t shoot the hardest. They might pass the best. But they see the game in a fun way that I agree is how it should be played. They bring out the fun in hockey.

Daniel (left) and Henrik's ability to find each other with no-look passes impressed even their teammates

Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers goalie) I remember being 16 or 17 in Sweden, and these two guys were dominating the Swedish Elite League. And then they come over to the NHL and do the same thing. It was really an inspiration to me and my brother (Joel, his identical twin who also played in the NHL).

Roberto Luongo (former Canucks and current Florida Panthers goalie) They made plays that you hadn’t really seen before. The way they would pass it to each other without really looking…. I was happy to have them on my team. It was always something different.

You have to remember they played against the top D-men on the other team every night. Every team’s goal was to play them hard, be physical, be in their face. Night after night, they faced teams that would try to be physical, punch them in the face and get them off their game. They still produced under those circumstances. That’s toughness to me.

Linden Back then, your stick was a weapon. They were never intimidated by the physicality. When a narrative gets started, people want to pile on…. “Not tough enough.” All those sorts of things were completely unfair. It pissed me off as a teammate of theirs, and a friend. It made me so angry because nothing was further from the truth.

Bertuzzi In the end, it’s jealousy. Our sport is about bullying and ripping on people and making fun of things. We all do it as players. To see them come out of it the way they have… these two kids are tough kids. The one compliment I can give them is they could have played in the ’80s, they could have played in the ’90s, and they dominated in the 2000s.

Vigneault It does bother me… all the negative criticism those guys took. But it didn’t seem to bother them. If it did, they didn’t share it with us. They just kept playing and kept going.

I think it was our fourth year (together) and they were really the best in the league. I was demanding on them all the time. But they came to me and said: “When you want to show some (negative) things on tape sometimes to the team and you really need to get your point across, you should show us. We won’t take it personally; we know you are doing it for the team.” They were always thinking about the team. That’s what made those guys so good to coach.

Burrows They’re some of the toughest people I’ve met. To come in as No. 2 and 3 in the draft in a Canadian city where they’ve never won the Stanley Cup… (and) people were criticizing how slow they were, how Hank looked fat, how Danny wasn’t strong enough in the corners and we gave up so much to get those two picks. They faced adversity early on, but that made them stronger.

They taught me not only on the ice but off the ice, how to be a true pro. They get involved, as much as any players I’ve seen throughout my career, in the community. They treat people the right way… especially their own teammates, coaches, staff, media. They’re just like the ultimate professionals.

Luongo I don’t know how you could think anything [negative] after all that they accomplished over the course of their careers and the production they’ve had. I don’t see how anybody can criticize that. I think they’re two of the most respected guys around the league amongst players.

“They just knew where to play. For about 15 years, they made their winger a lot of money.”

Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman, who is also from the Sedins’ hometown of Ornkoldsvik) They were two of my heroes growing up. Seeing them every summer, working out with them and being on the ice with them, how professional they are, how they get their bodies ready for every season, is something I really admire and try to take after. They obviously have some unbelievable skill. But I think their work ethic is what separates them from most guys. Just being around them, you feel like you’re getting better.

Crawford The fact they were twins made it unique. The fact one is a great passer and the other a great a shooter is part of the story as well.

Lundqvist They played a huge part in hockey in Sweden and Canada, the U.S. and in the NHL. The legacy? Probably the two of them together.

Vigneault It’s funny, anytime one would go and get a haircut, a day later, the other guy would get a haircut. They roomed together. They were best friends, great players. They were the whole package.

They were the guys, not only by what they did on the ice but how they conducted themselves. I loved coaching in Vancouver. I loved every moment of it here. I loved the fans, I loved the team. I loved the culture. The twins are 100 times more than I am. They should be Hall of Famers. To do what they did in the NHL, in one city, the way they did it, it’s just amazing.

Photo Credits

Jeff Vinnick/Getty; Jeff Vinnick/Getty; Christian Petersen/Getty