Daniel was spent. After 21 minutes of playing at the highest intensity — there was no coasting on this night — he and his brother asked Travis Green to call timeout heading into the power play in overtime. The breather and the roaring crowd renewed their energy momentarily and the two twins spent the first half-minute of the power play zipping around the ice. By the end, however, Daniel was standing still. It seemed like he had nothing left to give, but he put everything he had left into one last slap shot.
Everything he had was enough.
Thursday morning started like any other game day. Sure, there was a camera crew on hand to film Henrik’s usual routine of picking up Daniel on his way to the rink, but the drive was the same. Henrik talked about enjoying coming over the Burrard Street Bridge and seeing the mountains in the distance, but clouds obscured the view on Thursday.
The first real hint that this day was different was at the morning meeting. Instead of going through a video of their last game, breaking it down for teaching points, the team watched a video recapping the Sedins’ careers.
There was still a lesson to learn, though a little less detail-oriented than their usual video work in the morning.
“Everyone sees the finished product here: the Hall of Fame players,” said head coach Travis Green. “We talked to our group about how these two guys went through a lot. It was tough on them early in their career. [Marc Crawford] made them into great players, he was hard on them. That’s a good lesson for our young guys.”
“The league was hard, the game was different back then,” he continued. “These two, as young players in the league, had to persevere through some tough hockey and tough lessons and to see what they’ve become is a really good learning lesson for our young players.
“That was part of the discussion this morning: you see Hall of Fame guys that rightfully so get treated really well and with a lot of respect, but they’ve earned that respect.”
The normal routine was thrown for a loop. One definite disruption to Daniel’s daytime routine: no nap.
“It’s a blur, from the morning,” said Daniel. “They showed a video in the meeting this morning, the whole team was in there, the training staff and coaches, it started there. It was tough to sleep today. I like my game day naps, but that didn’t happen today.”
The Sedins skipped the optional game day skate, but still met with the media shortly after. Several media members from Sweden had flown in to document the final home game for two Swedish legends.
Henrik was asked about the media responsibilities that come with playing in a Canadian city.
“I think you understand from day one when you play in this market,” said Henrik. “We had a good team from day one with the West Coast Express, there was a lot of attention on this team. We were in the spotlight as well, even though we were not the front liners, there were still people talking about us and we had to answer questions.”
“We’ve always been good at watching other people and see how they deal with stuff,” he continued. “You saw Brendan Morrison, you saw Markus, you saw Bertuzzi, you saw Jovo and Mattias and all those guys, they did it.”
Asked whether what took place between the whistles mattered, Daniel shook his head.
“I think it’s about the fans,” he said. “For us, we’re going to try to treat it as a normal game, but I think it’s a chance for us to show them our respect too. We say this a lot, but they’ve been extremely good to us. Not maybe only the hockey fans, but the people in Vancouver, treating us like normal people. We try to be normal to them and they respect us when we’re out with our families, if it’s at the playground or at restaurants, they’re really respectful and that’s something we always appreciated.”
After the media scrums died down and the bright lights of the cameras were shut off, Daniel and Henrik stuck around in the locker room, chatting with Vancouver sports reporters who they had gotten to know over the many years they had spent together in that very room.
They talked about the memories of teammates that they’ll always cherish and spending time with Canucks alumni who they’ll soon be joining. Daniel joked about running the Grouse Grind with Alex Edler to keep him honest. They reminisced about old linemates, even the most obscure.
“We played with Brookbank a few games, and that worked too,” said Daniel. “I think he scored with us.”
He did. That’s Wade Brookbank, who had six career NHL goals. Two of them came while briefly on a line with the twins in the 2003-04 season: one assisted by Daniel and one assisted by Henrik.
The Sedins could seemingly elevate any player, even if it was just briefly, into a top-six forward. It didn’t seem to matter what style of play, the Sedins could make it work. There was just one thing necessary.
“The common thing,” said Daniel, “is they were all smart, intelligent players.”
It was easy to keep up with Daniel and Henrik physically, even if they were always in the best shape on the team; it was nearly impossible to keep up with them mentally. That mental agility was of primary importance, then the physical skills.
It took a lot of mental strength for Daniel and Henrik to stay focused and keep their emotions in check. The reality of the situation didn’t really set in until that final drive to the rink, a few hours before puck drop.
“You have to take it minute by minute,” said Henrik. “As soon as we come in here and watch some games, today maybe we’ll watch the Masters before the game, and just hang out with the guys, that’s going to be special.”
The atmosphere in the arena was electric. Daniel and Henrik jerseys were there in abundance; here and there a Swedish national team jersey appeared. At least one fan was spotted wearing a Daniel Sedin MODO jersey, from their hometown team in Örnsköldsvik.
For one game, the names on the back of the jersey meant more than the logo on the front. Instead of “Go Canucks go” chants of “Go Sedins Go” and “Daniel, Henrik” rung out.
The arena erupted every time the Sedins stepped onto the ice. Their were cries of disappointment every time the puck even went near the net when they had recently touched the puck. The anticipation was palpable: the Vancouver crowd wanted to see some Sedinery.
The Sedins, ever-courteous, didn’t make them wait too long. 33 seconds into the second period, the Sedins struck. Henrik pivoted off the boards, finding a gap where none seemed to exist, and pulled the puck around Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He found Alex Edler streaking to the net and Edler swung the puck under a sliding Luke Schenn.
Daniel Sedin, presented with an open net one last time at Rogers Arena, made no mistake.
The look on Troy Stecher’s face as he celebrated the goal with the Sedins said it all. For a moment, he was a fan again, watching the Sedins like he did as a kid growing up in Richmond.
“I’m pretty speechless,” said Stecher. “I got the start, so that moment I really took it all in, standing on the blue line with them for the national anthem in their last game at Rogers...There’s a lot of BC kids that would love to be in my shoes and experience it. Just try to embrace their presence, their professionalism, their leadership, just soak it all in.”
“Every memory we have of Canucks hockey, they were part of the team,” he continued. “I was six years old when they first played for them, so I don’t remember anything before them.”
Getting these last two seasons to play with his childhood heroes has been something truly special to Stecher.
“Whether they’re talking or not, you can learn something from them just by watching their actions,” he said. “It’s not a lie when everybody says they’re the first ones in the gym and everything, because it’s true, but the other side is their kids come to the rink and they’re good fathers and at the same time they’re able to balance their careers and it’s pretty special to watch.”
For Daniel and Henrik, it wasn’t just about scoring a goal in their final home game; what made it truly special was that Edler was in on the goal.
“It was the best thing that could happen,” said Henrik. “There’s few players that meant more than him. We talk about Naslund and Mattias and Trevor, but he’s the guy that we played with for a lot of years.”
While Canucks coaches and general managers have spent countless hours trying to find a “triplet,” some right winger that meshes well with the twins, Edler has always been the unofficial third Sedin.
“Yes, for us, for sure,” said Henrik. “We played so many shifts together, more so maybe back in the day when we had a great team, he was that offensive guy and he was behind us every single shift when we were out there against the Blackhawks and the Kings and those tough teams.”
“He gets a lot of criticism, but he’s a heart and soul guy and he shows up every game and he does the little things all the time,” he continued. “He’s been our best defenceman every year. There’s no question about it.”
“You forget about that too, the Ds, they run your team,” said Daniel. “They’re so important, not only defensively, but offensively too. With their breakout passes, shot from the blue line and all that.”
The word that came up most after the Sedins’ final home game was “storybook.” But in order to have a proper storybook ending, you need other literary elements, like conflict and an antagonist.
The Arizona Coyotes provided both, scoring twice in the final five minutes of the second period to take a two goal lead into the third. That set the stage perfectly and, for the first time in a long time, it seemed certain the Canucks were going to come back. Daniel had little doubt.
“No, we came back last game too,” he said, “and I think we played better tonight probably than we played last game. The guys wanted to win this game for us and that’s neat. It’s a special group...The guys stepped up and made it back into the game and tied it up.”
In the third period, the Vancouver fans treated the Sedins with a Viking Clap led at first by a Johnny Canuck video on the scoreboard, then organically two more times. Henrik was delighted.
“Yeah, they did it!” he exclaimed. “They did a good job. It was fun to see and hopefully they can keep doing it here and get a tradition going.”
Henrik had one small regret, as he reflected on waving to the cheering crowd.
“You always wish you could give them more,” he said.
So the Sedins gave the fans something more.
Michael Del Zotto deserves some credit: he’s the one that drew the penalty that made that final, perfect finish possible. In the storybook, he’s a vital supporting character.
As Virtanen carried the puck into the Coyotes’ zone, Del Zotto drove to the net, and Richard Panik paid tribute to another Sedin tendency and took a hooking penalty. That’s when the Canucks called timeout.
“It wasn’t to draw up a nice, special play, I can tell you that,” said Green.
“We needed that timeout for sure,” said Daniel. “That was huge. I’ve got to thank him too. He played us a lot tonight and we were tired, but he kept putting us out there.”
“It felt like a lot of guys, myself included, you had 20 minutes of energy and then you were drained,” said Henrik.
The Sedins took the ice with their triplet, Edler, and one of the key future leaders of the Canucks, Bo Horvat. Horvat won the faceoff, then didn’t touch the puck again.
Instead, it was over a minute of the Sedins and Edler possessing the puck, moving it around the outside of the Coyotes’ penalty killers, looking for an opening. Gradually, the Sedins’ skates slowed down until the two of them were practically standing still on the right side of the ice.
Edler, however, still had some jump. He passed the puck to Daniel, then skated to the front of the net, taking Horvat’s place as the screen in front of goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Luke Schenn couldn’t move Edler once his feet were planted, and Kuemper tried fruitlessly to look around him.
So, when Daniel took the saucer pass from Henrik and settled it, then decided to take one last shot at the net, Kuemper never picked it up.
He might not have stopped it even if he had. Daniel’s shot was perfectly placed into the top corner, off the crossbar and in. It’s appropriate that Daniel’s final goal in Vancouver was a goal-scorer’s goal.
The primary emotion for Daniel?
“Relief,” he said. “I was tired, but I was happy. You couldn’t dream of a better ending in this building, the last time you step on this ice, it was emotional.”
The crowd, which had been deafeningly loud all game, somehow got louder. The visiting Swedish media in the press box laughed in joyous disbelief. And the Sedins’ teammates came pouring off the bench, mobbing the twins.
“It’s amazing,” said Daniel. “I turn around and see Marky coming from the other end, he’s such a happy guy, I saw him smile through his mask, it was amazing.”
“I think a lot of guys were tired today, but when you have this crowd, it keeps you going,” he continued. “It gives you energy. You get up for shifts. You play a little bit extra hard and I think that shows what a great crowd can do to a team.”
“We’re at peace,” said Henrik. “It was a great ending, couldn’t finish any better.”
You could barely hear it over the crowd, but the Canucks’ goal song from their heyday in 2010-11, played after Daniel scored: “Holiday” by Green Day. One line from that song seemed particularly poignant for the moment:
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives.
“We’ll fly to Edmonton, have a good game there,” said Daniel, “and then we’ll start a new chapter.”
For the Sedins, the storybook ending wasn’t an ending at all, just the end of a single chapter in their life stories. What comes next will be just as important for them: being there for their kids’ soccer and hockey games, taking part in family ski trips (“I’ve never done it,” admitted Henrik), and, eventually, finding a way to contribute to the future of the Canucks.
“I saw our kids up on the jumbotron and that made me happy,” said Daniel. “We’ll spend more time with them.”
Henrik said, “We’re gone a lot, but even when we’re home, we go to games at 3:30 every day, they come home from school at 3:30, we never see them, they’re in bed when we come back...it’s going to be fun to be part of that now.”
As the Sedins step off the ice and into the next chapter, Thursday’s game will always hold a special place in their hearts.
“It’s a blur right now,” said Daniel, “but it’s something that you’ll look back after your career is done and it’s something we’ll remember forever.”
So will the city of Vancouver. How could we possibly forget?