VANCOUVER – To illustrate his point about how hard Henrik and Daniel Sedin worked to stay great, Victor Hedman, who grew up idolizing the twins, tells a story about seeing Danny back home in Sweden.
Presumably, the story takes place near the end of a typical summer day in Ornskoldsvik in which the town’s elite hockey players have spent hours training and conditioning themselves for another National Hockey League season.
“I remember sometimes I’d be sitting outside, maybe seven o’clock at night,” Hedman says. “You see Danny run by your house. And you’re like: ‘Holy (expletive), maybe I need to get out there, too.’ You always saw them trying to improve their game. Now they’re marathon runners, too. I could see that coming a long way.
“I just kind of try to follow their footsteps as good as I can.”
So, will Hedman be running marathons when he retires?
“No, there’s no way,” he says. “I pretended to look the other way. I didn’t see him.”
The Sedins were impossible to miss during their 18 years with the Vancouver Canucks, who will retire Daniel’s No. 22 and Henrik’s 33 before Wednesday’s home game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
An interesting thing about Hedman’s story is that Henrik wasn’t running with Daniel in the evening, although the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Norris Trophy-winning defenceman said he lived closer to Danny than Henrik so he saw him more often.
Nearly two years since they retired as the leading scorers and greatest players in Canucks history, the identical twins are running more than ever – usually six times a week, for a total of about 100 kilometres, on runs as long as 30 clicks.
They’re like Forrest Gumps, except they’re not trying to find meaning and sense in life or to ease their pain. Quite the opposite actually. They run because they want to, because they’re happy and have the time in the mornings when their kids are at school, because after all these years they still need to push themselves and one another. They’re not looking for anything. They already have it.
The Sedins earned every game and every point – they combined for 2,111 points in 2,636 games, all for the Canucks – during careers that should be honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame. But God, they were lucky to have each other.
They were born six minutes apart on Sept. 26, 1980 and in the NHL never seemed to be that far apart in any sense.
Think of how many families, how many siblings, can’t survive a Thanksgiving dinner without a spat, memories of old wounds, can’t help harpooning each other with reminders about how far apart they’ve grown.
The Sedins turn 40 this year and are as close as they’ve ever been. Sure, they were linemates. But they were best friends before that happened starting at age 12, when they were moved up an age group and arrived at the rink for practice and saw that Daniel had been switched from centre on his own line to Henrik’s wing.
“That’s just the way it happened,” Henrik said. “Otherwise I would have played on the wing and been the goal-scorer.”
And they’re best friends now in retirement.
“I think you realize as you get older how special that is,” Daniel says. “A lot of siblings aren’t best friends, but we certainly are. And that’s a great feeling. We’ll always support each other. When Henrik goes through tough times, whether it’s hockey or something else, I’ll feel it, too. So we share the ups and downs.
“We always had the same values and thought about things the same way. But on the ice, we bickered a lot, to be honest with you. We expected a lot from each other and we always realized, like, if Henrik wasn’t on top of his game, I was going to have a bad game. And the other way around. I think we kept it to ourselves and didn’t show much of that to the outside, but I think a lot of our linemates heard it.”
“We never really had a fight (but) we could be really tough with each other on the bench when we played hockey, after shifts,” Henrik concurs. “But outside the rink, there was never major stuff. The only toys we had was a soccer ball and a hockey net and sticks. We played with our friends. That was all we did. We competed when we played soccer and had tough battles, but we never had a fight.
“Danny’s very, like, relaxed. If I make a mistake, it’s not like he’s going to hold it over me for a long time. We move on from stuff. We’re relaxed about everything. Hockey-wise, to have a brother like that, we forced each other to be the best we could be. We might be the only pair of hockey players to have a relationship that’s that close.”
Their kids play together now.
Daniel and his wife, Marinette, live in West Point Grey with their three children: Ronja, 14, Erik, 12, and Anna, 9. Henrik and Johanna live not far away in Southlands, where they’re raising their boys, Valter, 12, and Harry, 9, and have room for horses.
Daniel and Henrik see each other most days. Danny will bring his daughter to Southlands to ride after school, then stop by Henrik’s house so the boys can play together.
And they run, often from Daniel’s house, near the Sedin kids’ school where Danny volunteers as a crossing guard one morning a week.
They don’t miss hockey.
“Until you go through the first season not playing, you don’t know,” Henrik said. “There are times of course you miss playing the game and playing in the playoffs. Those feelings come back, especially when you watch games now that mean something. When there’s a big power play coming up in overtime, that’s when I miss it.
“But there is so much else that goes into playing. Overall, I’m not missing it. We’ve been lucky, I think, that we don’t miss it. It’s a lot easier going through the day when you don’t want to be at the rink.”
Daniel says: “I’ve had no regrets. We probably could have played a few more years. Our bodies felt pretty good and all that. It was fun going to the rink, but all the little things you need to do to be successful, we’d done it for 17 or 18 years in the NHL, and at least three more years in Sweden before that. Mentally, it takes a toll on you.
“I like the down time, the chance to have a few hours where you don’t do anything. Our lives have always been very do-this-do-that, there’s a meeting here, a game tonight, and then we travel tomorrow. It’s been very scheduled for 20 years. It’s nice not to have that anymore.
“When we had kids, our lives changed a lot because we realized hockey wasn’t everything. I think it made us better hockey players, but we always looked forward to the time when we could spend more time with our kids. Take them to their activities and be there after school. That’s kind of the happiest time of the day, when they come home from school.”
The brothers, who always ran miles as part of their preparation for hockey, completed their first marathon last May. Daniel ran the BMO Vancouver Marathon in three hours 11 minutes 42 seconds. Henrik did it in 3:24:08.
“We stopped running for a bit; it was a disaster,” Daniel said. “We hit the dreaded wall.”
Danny gave it another try at the Amsterdam Marathon in October and ran 2:57:36, a time that qualified him to run the Boston Marathon in 2021. So, yes, Daniel Sedin is going back to Boston.
“We’ve done tons of trail races and half-marathons and 10Ks, and when we run against each other, he has beaten me every time except once,” Henrik says. “The longest run we do is about 30K, but we average about 100 kilometres per week right now. We have a set schedule and we know exactly what pace we should do, so we keep to that. But every second run is pretty slow, so you can talk and discuss things while you’re running.
“We talk about the Canucks every day and what’s happening there and how they can get better. We’re always talking about the Canucks and the last game. That’s on our mind, for sure. I would say maybe every second week we go down there (to Rogers Arena) for coffee and talk. That might be the reason we don’t miss the game because whenever we want that (camaraderie) we can go down there.”
Although humbled by the jersey honours, the Sedins aren’t looking forward to being focal points of a centre-ice ceremony before Wednesday’s game, as elated as they are that many of their ex-teammates will be there.
“Looking up at the players who are already up there (with retired numbers) we have a personal connection with most of them,” Daniel says. “Playing with Trevor (Linden) and Markus (Naslund), they meant so much to us. They’re two of the biggest reasons we were allowed to grow in this market. And Stan (Smyl), being in the organization, he is just a great man. Talking to him, he’s always positive and has a smile on his face. Pavel (Bure), we haven’t really met him. But those three mean a lot to us.”
With so many friends and teammates and reporters in town, the Sedins’ running schedule will be thrown off this week.
But, seriously, couldn’t Daniel just let Henrik beat him now and then?
“No, not a chance,” Danny said. “Honestly, that’s why we had so much success. It pushed us harder than we would have otherwise. I don’t know how good we could have been without each other, but it wouldn’t have been like this.”
Still running after all these years.