Sedins go from heroes to enemies of state
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Never have Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the hockey-playingest twins in the world, suffered from much of an identity crisis. They get who they are: Henrik was born first. Daniel was picked one slot higher in the draft. Henrik is more unselfish. Daniel digs scoring goals. To the hockey world, which has seen them together with the Vancouver Canucks for a decade, they might as well be Siamese.
So this whole thing … it’s weird. They’re playing the Winter Olympics in the city where they moved as teenagers, in the arena where they ply their trade, in front of the fans who totally love them, and, well, the Sedin twins are enemies.
Not just ha-ha, soft-punch-on-the-arm enemies. Like, old-fashioned, hockey-punch-in-the-face enemies. As long as the Sedins are wearing the blue-and-yellow uniforms of Sweden – their birthplace, the defending hockey gold medalist and another hurdle for a Canadian team – they’re no longer Canucks.
They might as well be traitors.
“I hope they boo us,” Henrik said.
The Swedes dispatched Belarus 4-2 on Friday afternoon to win their second game of the tournament and reinforce that Canada and Russia aren’t the only powerhouses here. Henrik fed Daniel on the game’s first goal, and each added an assist on Daniel Alfredsson’s clincher with 11 seconds remaining. For the 29-year-old Sedins, this supersedes any NHL business. This is about national supremacy, and for the last four years, the ultra-talented Swedes have owned it.
Forget that Henrik ranks second in the league in scoring and that Daniel’s return from a broken foot was going swimmingly and that they’re the lifeblood of the only team in town. Right now, they are personae non grata in Vancouver.
“There are two Swedes on this team, only one Canadian from the Canucks,” Henrik said. “So they should cheer a little for us.”
Maybe a smidgen, at least until the Swedes meet up with the Canadians, which could happen as soon as the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Canada entered the Vancouver Games expecting to “Own the Podium,” as its $100 million-plus campaign toward athletic prowess encouraged its athletes to do. Unless somebody is willing to commit grand theft, all Canada owns is a bank load of debt and the hopes of the men’s hockey team to salvage an unremarkable showing.
Canada needing a shootout to beat the scrappy Swiss on Thursday night sent the country into near apoplexy. Even if Russia is a more talented team and Sweden a more physical one, this is Canada’s Games and Canada’s sport.
“It would be really great to get to play Canada in their home country and in your city,” Daniel said. “If we get a chance to do that, it would be pretty awesome.”
“Oh, yeah,” Henrik said. “I hope in the finals. We’ll see. It’s something we’re really looking forward to, because that’s where you really get the crowd into it.”
Which is exactly what they’ve done since the 1999 draft, when then-Canucks general manager Brian Burke – who is running Team USA at these Olympics – pulled off a daring set of trades to land both Sedins. Three deals landed the Canucks the Nos. 2 and 3 picks in the draft, and with a contingency on one that Atlanta choose Patrick Stefan with the top choice, it left the Sedins for Vancouver.
Their evolution was gradual. The Sedins came from Ornskoldsvik, a small seaside town, and were dropped into metropolitan Vancouver as 20-year-olds. Starting with the post-lockout season of 2005-06, their production spiked, and the Sedins become Vancouver mainstays. They married, had kids and built lives here, and instead of cashing in via free agency last offseason, they signed identical five-year, $30.5 million deals to stay with the Canucks.
While they won gold in 2006, their contributions weren’t nearly as integral as this year’s. Mats Sundin, Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Holmstrom are gone from the Turin Games, and the contributions against Belarus are expected of the Sedins daily.
“They mean the same as Henrik Zetterberg and Peter Forsberg,” said Swedish defenseman Matthias Ohlund, a career-long Canuck until this year. “This is really the first big tournament where they’ve had that prominent role. They’ve been two of the best players in the world this year, and it’s enjoyable watching them grow.
“It takes most players quite some time before they reach their peak, and I’m not sure we’ve seen their peak yet, which is kind of scary.”
If it comes here, it will be with haywire emotions. The Sedins are playing on their home ice at GM Place with an unfamiliar jersey that sports three crowns on front. They are seeing the league’s savviest defenseman, Nicklas Lidstrom, skate alongside them instead of try to check them. And, yes, they are readying their ears for a country’s full nastiness to rain down.
“It’s almost like it’s two Olympics here,” Henrik said. “It’s the hockey Olympics, and it’s the rest of them.”
And in the hockey Olympics, when it’s Canada’s gold medal at stake, anything goes. Until Closing Ceremony, the Sedin twins aren’t Vancouverites, Canucks or anything of the sort. They’re just bums in blue and yellow.