Perhaps the most uniquely talented pair of players the game of hockey has seen, at least symbiotically speaking, Daniel and Henrik Sedin represented the Vancouver Canucks with class for nearly two decades.
The identical twins from Örnsköldsvik also donned the Tre Kronor regularly from the time they were teenagers — and their impressive international careers representing Sweden concluded at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Sportsnet has been re-airing this week.
“They’ve meant a lot to the Swedish program the way they’ve been playing both for the national team and with the Canucks,” former Olympic teammate and Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom said before that tournament. “The way they’ve handled themselves and gotten better and better since they came into the league…I know they’ve been very important to Swedish hockey for many years.”
The Sedins were fixtures on Sweden’s U-16 and U-17 teams. They also helped lead Sweden to a gold medal at the 1998 European U-18 Junior Championships and continued to suit up for their country with pride after being taken second- and third-overall in the 1999 NHL Draft.
Three world juniors appearances in 1998, 1999 and 2000 saw them improve each year and produce at better than a point-per-game pace overall, and they each ended up playing more than 30 games at the annual IIHF World Championships.
They won Olympic gold in 2006, combined for 15 points in just four games en route to a world championship in 2013 and added an Olympic silver to their collection in 2014.
Though they wouldn’t confirm it prior to the World Cup, many figured the 2016 tournament in Toronto would be the final time the Sedins would put on a Team Sweden uniform since it appeared unlikely NHL players would be competing at the 2018 Olympics – which turned out to be the case.
Re-live the World Cup of Hockey on SN
Catch the best games from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, including the semifinals and both finals games between Team Canada and Team Europe, on Sportsnet from May 18-23.
Despite being Sweden’s two oldest players, they were an integral part of Sweden’s 2016 offence and their elite vision and hockey IQ was on display throughout the tournament.
“Their chemistry, they know each other inside and out, but it’s their hockey sense and their awareness on the ice that really stands out to me — not just between themselves but between the other forward on their line or the defence pairing,” former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “It looks so easy at times. Sometimes they throw it behind their back but there’s always a plan. They’re extremely smart. It’s fun to watch and frustrating to play against.”
They helped set up the winning goal against Finland in the round robin with some vintage board work from behind the net.
“Obviously Hank is amazing behind the net,” Daniel said of his brother. “I know if I can find him and give him some time he’s going to make a great play.”
“It’s hard to defend because they always have the knack of knowing where the other guy is all the time,” Lidstrom said. “They’re throwing the puck behind their backs, they’re laying the puck where guys will skate into it. When you’re sitting upstairs and watching from above you can see the plays developing and see how they’ll wait for an out to make the pass. And sometimes you wonder how he knew he was going to be there, but they have that chemistry amongst the two of them that makes it very hard to defend.”
Sweden was expected to make it out of Group B and earn a spot in the final against the favourites from Canada, but they ran into an overlooked-yet-determined Europe all-star team in the semifinals.
Down 2-1 with less than five minutes remaining in regulation, the Sedins had a dominant shift cycling the puck and both earned assists on an Erik Karlsson goal that sent the game into overtime.
A few minutes into the extra frame, Tomas Tatar ended the game, and subsequently the international playing career of the Sedins, when he scored to advance the European all-star team to the final.
“We played a patient game thinking it was going to pay off in the end and it didn’t,” Daniel said.