Sedins Overcame Years of Disrespect To Become Future Hall-of-Famers
The imminent retirement of Daniel and Henrik Sedin marks the end of an era for the Vancouver Canucks. The twins spent their entire 17-year NHL careers with the Canucks, becoming the greatest players in franchise history.
Since their announcement, the Sedins have been feted by the hockey media for their on-ice accomplishments, their charitable contributions away from the rink, and their gentlemanly conduct. Opposing players and coaches also expressed their respect of the twins.
It’s weird, though, hearing the word “respect” tied to the Sedins. They’ve certainly earned it, but most of the accolades glossed over just how much disrespect the twins were subjected to throughout their careers.
In his April 2nd tribute to the Sedins, Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre said, “It’s doubtful any two stars in NHL history have not only been criticized but ridiculed as much as the Sedins were.” Even this season, he noted, some local fans and reporters couldn’t seem to get rid of the duo fast enough.
The very attributes that made the twins so beloved among most Canucks followers and garnered so much praise as their careers wind down – their amazing skills and chemistry, their classy comportment, humility and professionalism – often made them targets for abuse. Because they’re not aggressively physical and didn’t demonstrate any willingness to fight when challenged by lesser-talented foes, they were labeled as “soft” players.
The criticism began early. As a blogger for Nucks Misconduct observed in Feb. 2015, when the Sedins entered the NHL they were considered “too small”…”not fast enough, there were not tough enough, their game would not translate to North America.” Their physical play was “constantly criticized.”
In a Feb. 3, 2010 piece for ESPN.com touting Henrik as a Hart Trophy candidate, Pierre LeBrun observed how the twins were easily pushed around by opponents during the early years of their NHL development. It was around that time some of their more juvenile critics began referring to them as “the Sedin sisters.”
During the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, NBC analyst Mike Milbury singled out the Sedins, calling them “Thelma and Louise”. When asked about it, Henrik compared the taunt to something out of kindergarten while Daniel said he and his brother didn’t worry about such comments.
In a Dec. 2011 interview with WGN Radio in Chicago, then-Blackhawks center Dave Bolland referred to the Sedins as “sisters” numerous times. He suggested they might sleep in bunk beds, adding, “We’d be sure not to let them on our team.”
In a Nov.1 2013 report covering the announcement of the Sedins’ four-year contract extensions, the Toronto’s Sun’s Mike Zeisberger cited then-Canucks head coach John Tortorella lashing out at the twins’ critics.
“It pisses me off, the reputation that’s still out there”, said Tortorella. “It’s so undeserving and so disrespectful.” He went on to praise their work ethic, especially “underneath the hash marks in the tough areas”. He also pointed out how hard they played along the boards and how well they protected the puck.
Tortorella’s comments did little to dispel that reputation. During a Feb. 2015 interview with a Dallas radio station, Dallas Stars forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin laughed along with the hosts’ sophomoric mockery of the Sedins. “They look funny, they look weird”, said Benn, while Seguin reportedly called them “odd as shit”. Benn subsequently apologized, as did Stars president Jim Lites.
In a Jan. 20, 2017 interview with Vancouver’s TSN 1040, then-NBC Sports hockey writer Mike Halford noted the aging Sedins still weren’t receiving the respect they deserved. He suggested it could be because they were the face of a team that, during its glory years at the turn of this decade, was among the most despised in the league.
Halford felt that was unfair to the Sedins, speculating there would be a lot of soul-searching among pundits when the twins retired. Judging by the plaudits they’re receiving of late, it appears the contemplation has begun.
This isn’t to imply that the Sedins were precious little snowflakes who never should’ve been challenged or subjected to a critical word. Over the years, many great NHL players faced their fair share of silly name-calling and trash-talking. However, the disrespect the Sedins encountered seemed more strident and enduring.
Perhaps, as Halford suggested, it’s because they were the twin stars of a once-dominant and reviled Canucks club. The Sedins, however, had little to do with it. Yes, they did at times draw penalties by diving, though they were no worse at it than several of their contemporaries. Besides, it was physical players and agitators such as Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows and Maxime Lapierre who were largely responsible for the club’s reputation back then.
Maybe it’s because the Sedins are from Sweden, a source of puzzling derision for some North American players, fans and pundits dating back to the mid-1970s, when Toronto Maple Leafs Hall-of-Fame defenseman Borje Salming was targeted as a “Chicken Swede”.
Perhaps it’s their low-key personalities. Nothing ever seemed to really bother them. Opposing players would get in their faces with taunts, threats, punches and high sticks and the twins simply wouldn’t engage. In a sport that still prides itself on its rough-and-tumble image, the Sedins’ unwillingness to take part in such antics cast them into a sometimes harsh spotlight.
Maybe it’s because they’re almost inseparable identical twins who share an uncanny on-ice chemistry that baffles their critics. Or perhaps it’s jealousy. After all, any team would be lucky to have a player as talented as one of the Sedins. Having two perhaps seemed a little unfair for some Canucks’ opponents. The rise of social media over the past decade also seemed to fan the flames of spite.
Whatever the reason behind the years of crude taunts and cheap shots, the Sedins rose above it all with a class and dignity deserving of respect and admiration. They took their lumps and kept playing at a high level. They never lost sight of the fact that the purpose of hockey is outscoring your opponent. For 17 seasons, few players did it better or with more consistency than Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
The Sedins will never get their names on the Stanley Cup as players. Their places in hockey history, however, will be forever enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, perhaps as early as their first year of eligibility in 2021.