From one Canucks legend to another: Henrik Sedin (left) celebrates a Markus Naslund goal with his mentor during a December 2007 National Hockey League game at GM Place in Vancouver.
Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG files
VANCOUVER — One of the greatest strengths of Henrik Sedin is his toughness. Who knew?
No one can do what he is doing without a ferocious competitiveness burning inside.
Sedin is about to eclipse hometown idol Markus Naslund’s career scoring record of 756 points for the Vancouver Canucks.
Sedin has played 592 consecutive games in the National Hockey League and, for most of those nights, the opposition’s primary goal has been to stop, through all means including intimidation and physical abuse, Henrik and Daniel Sedin from scoring.
Henrik has captained the Canucks during the most successful four-year period in franchise history, the last two as captain. The Swedish brothers have maintained their elite standing by working harder each summer than the previous one, a commitment to their team and themselves that is not wavering at age 32.
Despite a vicious barrage of criticism early in their NHL careers and the periodic recurrence of the most base and ignorant charge that the Sedins are “sisters,” the brothers never fail to stand in front of the net or microphones despite the bashing they absorb in both places.
Truly, they are two of the toughest guys who have ever played for the Canucks. And the two best.
Henrik stated Monday the Sedins’ desire to sign another contract with the team when their current deals expire in 2014. Given the nature of their game and of them, the Sedins should far surpass 1,000 points apiece in Vancouver uniforms. And none of it will really matter to them unless they also win a Stanley Cup.
So you’ll excuse Henrik for not being as excited as some people think he should be Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild if he collects his 756th and 757th points as a Canuck. He and Danny are a long way from being done.
“We were criticized, fairly, a lot of times,” Henrik said after Monday’s practice. “To go through that and become bigger players than a lot of people thought, I think that’s the main thing.
“We came over when we were 19 and (initially) we wanted to go back to Sweden every morning we woke up. It was tough. But now we enjoy every minute here, coming down to the rink, and seeing your kids grow up here.
“It’s a honour to be (captain) in a Canadian city, and being a Swede and going through the things that we’ve been through to get this far.”
Naslund, whom Henrik noted made the same challenging journey from an outdoor rink in Ornskoldsvik to the NHL and the Canucks, was partly responsible for talking the Sedins down off the ledge when they considered returning permanently to Sweden during their first three seasons in Vancouver.
Naslund’s co-counsellor was Trevor Linden, who helped mentor the twins until his retirement in 2008. That was the year Naslund left as a free agent, joining the New York Rangers for one season before walking away from a lot of money to finish his career in Sweden.
Naslund broke Linden’s career scoring mark his final season here. Their names are on two of the three jerseys hanging from the ceiling of Rogers Arena. The other belongs to Stan Smyl, the Canucks’ senior adviser who had the scoring record before Linden came along.
Henrik understands the impact and magnitude of the company he is keeping in the record book.
“They don’t take shifts off, don’t cut corners, don’t cheat,” Linden said Monday of the twins. “You look around the league at the game’s top guys and a lot of them play a lot of minutes and cheat on the offensive side of things. These guys play the game the way it has to be played. To me, that carries through the team and that’s why the team has been so consistently good — because their best players respect how the game has to be played.”
Linden predicted the Sedins will finish their careers “hundreds” of points ahead of any other Canuck. Daniel, 27 points behind Henrik, trails Linden by five on the all-time list.
“They’re the type of players who have never done it on speed and power,” Linden said when asked about the sustainability of the Sedins’ game. “They did it by thinking and playing a real cerebral game and relying on one another. And that’s really going to bode well for them continuing as they move on in their career. It was always about thinking and moving the puck and working together.”
Smyl said: “They’re tougher than people give them credit for. The thing that impresses me is their consistency, night after night. No matter what is put in front of them, you know what kind of effort you will get from them Henrik and Daniel.”
There is a linear beauty to the Sedins’ ascension in Vancouver. Smyl mentored Linden, who helped Danny and Hank.
Asked what he is most proud of as a Canuck, Daniel said: “I hope that we treat our teammates the way they want to be treated and the way we’ve been treated throughout these years. The stuff on the ice, it’s going to be up and down. But you can always come to the rink with a good attitude and be happy because we live a good life.”
It’s astounding people still question the character of these guys.
“I think the people of Vancouver and the fans of the Canucks are so fortunate to have an athlete like him and his brother,” Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said. “But the quality of those people as far as who they are and what they bring to the table, I’ve seen (Henrik) develop into a great person and a great leader.
“Probably his best leadership quality – him and his brother – is that they like to serve people. Their legacy is going to be great. But I believe they want their legacy to have a Stanley Cup in there, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that together.”
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