Sedins Overcame Years of Disrespect To Become Future Hall-of-Famers

by | Apr 5, 2018 | Soapbox | 14 comments

Long-time Vancouver Canucks stars Daniel and Henrik Sedin faced a considerable amount of criticism and abuse during their long NHL careers. (Photo via NHL.com)

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.

 








14 Comments

  1. The biggest shame is nobody actually watched these guys play. You couldn’t do in a video game what they did on the ice, they were definitely telepathic. I’m a flames fan, I know. They are the reason kipper had to retire. Its rare for west coasters to get the credit they deserve (unless they wine for it like Doughty).

    • Finally earning respect after their retirement is almost as much a slap in the face as all the ridicule they received while they played. I mean, I’m glad some experts are speaking up about their talent and lack of respect they received all these years but it’s something that should have been done many years ago.

      Being able to have watched them their entire careers, these guys are two of the toughest players the game has seen in recent years but that toughness is shown in different ways than traditional measures.

    • How exactly were they responsible for Kipper retiring? As I remember it the flames were trying to trade him to the maple leafs and he used his no trade and retired at the end of the year.

  2. That spin around backhand blind pass right on tape between them will probably retire with them. Amazing players. You can score when they are on the ice. Even if you are Murray Baron or Brad Lukowich. Fortunate to have watched them from start to finish.

  3. Really well written article Lyle, thank you.

    • Thanks, Jesse.

  4. Those guys are the only reason Anson Carter had any sort of NHL-level career (not badmouthing Carter, just saying he did MUCH more with them than he could have without them). Great players, great guys. Enjoy the rest of your lives, gentlemen.

    • Anson Carter only played one year in VAN out of a decade plus career, and it wasn’t even statistically the best year of his career…strange comment.

      https://www.nhl.com/player/anson-carter-8459156

  5. Wonderful read. Being a fan of an east coast team I never gave the sedins much thought. This was nice

    • Agreed Chrisms, a nice tribute to a couple of the game’s best.

      I do wish they had been traded to a contender this season, it would have been great for them to have another shot at a cup and whatever team got them would have gained a temporary fan base in Vancouver.

      I’m sure if they wanted that trade VAN would have made it happen, so must not have been their desire…still would have been fun as a fan.

  6. I’m an identical twin myself. I’ve alwa6s admired the Sedins. My bro and I played basketball in high school and people used to say we could read each others minds as well. When you grow up with someone and spend the majority of time with them you know their tendencies better than themselves. My brother and I used to just look and each other and give a nod of the head or rise of an eyebrow and we know exactly what play the other one wanted. It’s a twin thing. To watch the Sedins do it at such a high level was always fun for me

    Often id go one way and see my brother out of the corner of my eye go the other and I knew if he was going to the net or to the corner for a 3 pointer. I’d just pivot and pass the ball blindly and he have it going in the net. Worked the same for our street hockey games.

  7. I never got the criticism of the Sedins’. They were pure skill players, and remarkable athletes. They never missed many games in their productive careers. Nobody criticized Gretzky, Francis, Mario Lemieux or Yzerman for not being physical. They left that for lesser players. If the refs would have penalized the Bruins in 2011 for their questionable tactics, they would have had Cup rings too! Even still the determined Sedins’ will retire as Hall of Famers, and the best Canucks ever. Thanks for insightful article Lyle. VVV

    • Agree with you Canucks outclassed Bruins but Bruins managed to slug their way to Stanley Cup on what was the most disgusting postseason drive in modern NHL.

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