VANCOUVER – Rogers Arena was not so much a hockey rink Thursday as a memory studio.
Nearly 19,000 people came to get their shot, to fix in their minds and hearts what it was like, and to use these memories like cherished photos to pull out years from now and remember and be glad they were there.
In the twins’ last touch of the puck in Vancouver – their final home game as Canucks at the end of 18-year Hall of Fame careers – Danny shot from Hank’s pass to lift the team they came to define to a 4-3 victory against the Arizona Coyotes.
No. 22 scored from No. 33 at 2:33 of overtime. Daniel scored an even prettier goal, on passes from Henrik and their longest-tenured teammate, fellow Swede Alex Edler, at 33 seconds of Period 2.
Truly, you could not dream these things as a finale at Rogers Arena for the two greatest players in Canucks history.
“I didn’t sleep much last night, so I didn’t have any dreams,” Daniel smiled after a long, slow, victory lap on the ice with his brother. “But it was amazing, especially for Hank and Eddie to be the setup men.
“It was a tougher today for sure when we realized it was the last game. We tried to go out there and play the right way, but I was tired today. (But) when the fans show up, you want to put on a good game for them. I hope they go home happy. I know we are.”
After a combined 2,634 games in the National Hockey League, the 37-year-old identical twins from Ornskoldsvik were once again the best Canucks in their final home game. They have a Saturday road game in Edmonton before they are finished as players, having announced their retirement on Monday while still productive NHL scorers.
Amid an electric, emotional atmosphere unseen outside a playoff game in Vancouver since Canucks president Trevor Linden, one of the Sedins’ early mentors and advocates, retired as a player exactly 10 years earlier, the crowd chanted “Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame!” in the third period, then “One more year! One more year!” after the Sedins won the game on an overtime power play.
In their final, fleeting two weeks with the Sedins, the Canucks are 6-1-1.
“Absolutely, it means something,” Henrik said of generating goals in their final game in Canucks home blue. “The way the crowd showed up … it was just an incredible night. To be able to win and finish it off like we did, that’s something they can walk away and remember as well. It’s a better feeling for us.
“Before the game in here, you could hear the crowd. Everyone was really amped up for the game. The guys (on the team) have been great. It’s tough to play in these games. I played in the one Trevor played in, and it’s not easy. I think they wanted to do the best for us, and they did.”
One of the most powerful and remarkable aspects of sports is that they mark not only athletic achievement but time itself. The biggest moments, joyous or heart-breaking, are like mile markers in our lives. It happened, and we were there. And if we weren’t there, at least we witnessed it through television.
On the West Coast, where the Canucks haven’t yet blessed our memory banks with a Stanley Cup after 48 years in the NHL, Thursday was one of those mile markers everyone will remember. April 5, 2018, the night the Sedins won their final home game and were cheered off the ice.
Daniel scored twice, including the game winner, and registered 10 shots on net. Henrik set up both goals and attempted six shots, which is about a month’s worth for the all-world playmaker who has just three goals this season.
“I get a big bonus at four goals, so I needed to get one,” Henrik joked. “But I didn’t get it. We had 15 seconds of energy (for shifts) and then we were dead tired. That’s not normal. I think our heart rate was through the roof the whole night.”
So imagine what they might do Saturday in Edmonton after a couple of good sleeps.
With 23 goals and 55 points – five more than his brother – Danny has moved into a tie with injured rookie Brock Boeser for the Canucks’ scoring lead. A point against the Oilers, the source of more Sedin points than any other club, will give him the team scoring title in his final season.
“It really doesn’t happen like this where two Hall of Fame guys that have been on one team as long as they have, go out on their terms and are still playing games,” Canucks coach Travis Green marvelled after the morning skate. “It’s very special.
“Take it all in, enjoy it. Hopefully everyone remembers it. And hopefully some of our players learn something from it.”
Several of the Canucks are too young to remember a Vancouver team that did not include the Sedins, who arrived in Vancouver before the 2000-01 season as second- and third-overall draft picks.
Expectations for them were impossibly high, and yet the Sedins surpassed them.
“The fans, how loud it was, how they played, and the ending …” Edler said when asked how he will remember this night. “It couldn’t get much better. It was definitely special to be part of. You’re going to think back to this night, how the building was, how the game ended.
“It was really special.”
Henrik said his best memories from Thursday will be from the overtime goal on – the time both fans and twins were able to celebrate a relationship as rare as the Sedins.
“But even the whole day … when I woke up this morning, I knew it was going to be a big day,” he said. “We tried to enjoy every minute of it.”
Memories for a lifetime.