Vancouver Canucks gameday: Henrik and Daniel’s final farewell

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 5: Daniel Sedin
VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 5: Daniel Sedin /

On Saturday night, the Vancouver Canucks most beloved sons, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, will play their final NHL hockey game. I still can’t believe I just typed those words.

Like so many Vancouver Canucks fans, I still haven’t fully processed what happened on Thursday night at Roger’s Arena. I’ve never been part of a sports moment that was even remotely like it. A meaningless game in April that meant more to us than many playoff games have. A climax to the careers of the greatest Canucks of all time that met, and then outrageously surpassed, all of our expectations.

Of the many things I will remember from that game, I will forever remember my reaction to the first Sedin goal. On the first shift of the second period, Henrik led a rush into the offensive zone, made a brilliant deke inside the blueline to set up Alex Edler in the slot.

Edler – who that morning had cried at the thought of his dear friends’ retiring from the game – managed to out-Sedin the Sedins, pulling goaltender Darcy Kuemper off to his left and then snapping a no-look backhand pass across the slot. Daniel Sedin, poised as ever and totally open, finished the tic-tac-toe with precision.

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It all happened in a matter of seconds, and as I have done so many times in their illustrious careers, my first reaction was to laugh.

An explosion of “you have to be kidding me” laughter, followed by the crushing realization that this may be the last time.

The laughter immediately became tears. I was like the Joker, laughing and crying like a maniac, by myself on the sofa with a cat sitting on my lap looking at me like “huh?”

And I know I wasn’t alone.

Say what you will about the power of twitter to magnify negativity when things are bad. Sharing the experience of Thursday night’s game with hundreds of other Vancouver Canucks faithful, also sitting at home crying, was a unique and magical moment in the power of sport and I know that many of us will never forget it. I am truly grateful to have shared it with all of you.

The climax

And of course, the Sedins gave us the finale we never dreamed we deserved. A movie with an ending that is too perfect, where you can’t help but think “that would never happen, what hack wrote this?” Except it did happen, before our very eyes. Eyes sodden with tears, mind you.

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Our complicated relationship with the Sedins, wrapped up in a single moment.

A Sedin powerplay in overtime, patiently passing the puck around the outside, waiting, waiting, waiting, passing, passing, another pass, a return pass, someone yells “SHOOT,” they keep passing, time is ticking away, are they going to waste the whole powerplay passing?, another pass, Henrik holds the puck, another pass, Shorty is getting anxious you can hear it in his voice as he says “still no shot,” another pass, another, an entire city is about to utterly lose its mind, Henrik to Daniel, Daniel to Henrik, Henrik to Daniel –

And then, before anyone realizes it, the puck is in the net.

As they have done so many times, they spun us all into a trance, getting dizzy following the puck, mind frayed from trying to concentrate, attention slipping because how long can they keep this up, and then at precisely the right moment they strike.

On the ice: Henrik Sedin. Daniel Sedin. Their beloved friend Alex Edler. The boy who has looked up to them and will inherit their throne, celebrating his 23rd birthday, Bo Horvat. And the much-maligned Jacob Markstrom, so hard on himself but always praised beyond measure by the Sedins.

There was literally no way this could have been better, and I can’t stop watching the moment from different angles from different people’s cell phones. It will never get old. It will always be a thing of pure beauty.

The climax to this story was as climactic as it could possibly have been. A vintage Sedin powerplay goal to blow the roof off the Rog, and the reigning kings of Vancouver sailed off into the sunset to bask in the glory of life after hockey.

But every climax needs a dénouement. The last few details need to be wrapped up, the t’s need crossing and the i’s need dotting, and Henrik and Daniel must come out for a curtain call to give us their truly final bow.

The Red Carpet

To it’s credit, Edmonton is reportedly planning to roll out the red carpet for the Canucks superstars in their final NHL game. Hart Trophy candidate and arguably the NHL’s greatest talent Connor McDavid has already talked about the effect the Sedins had on the game, noting that his own team practices a play known as the “Sedin tip.”

While the current crop of Oilers doesn’t have a lot of players connected to the Sedins, you can bet that former teammate Zack Kassian will be glad to be part of this final game, and fellow Swede Adam Larsson will certainly have memories attached to the Sedins’ performances with the national team. Milan Lucic, of course, was on the wrong side of the 2011 Stanley Cup series that frames so much of the Sedins’ legacy, but it is easy to predict that the Sedins will treat him with the utmost dignity and respect in their final game, because that’s just what the Sedins do.

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Beyond that, there aren’t a lot of emotional threads tying these two teams together, and maybe that’s fine. It will likely be a subdued but respectful Edmonton crowd that will sing out the final notes of the Sedins’ careers and after the emotional rollercoaster they have been living in the past several days, they are probably thrilled to get away from it and have one final road game with their teammates.

In fact, it’s likely exactly what the Sedins would want.

They’ve had the emotional goodbye with the fans, and now they can focus on the relationships in the locker room that have always mattered so much to them. For those of us watching at home, it will be a quieter and more reflective anticlimax, and that’s probably for the best. I’m not sure my heart could take much more.

Bidding farewell to the greatest of men

Earlier this week, I wrote about what the Sedins meant for a generation of young men trying to figure out how to be in this world. Nothing I’ve ever written about the Vancouver Canucks has generated so much reaction, and I think that’s because so few individuals have ever been able to do what the Sedins did. And I don’t mean the slap pass or the cycle.

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Henrik and Daniel Sedin stood before us as men who didn’t need to prove that they were “men.” What mattered to them was to be decent, respectful, generous people.

A lot of men share that goal, in the abstract, but we are placed in circumstances that test our capacity to live by it. We don’t think of ourselves as “macho” but then some jerk questions or threatens our manhood and we feel an instinct to assert ourselves.

Maybe it’s a bully picking on us at school, maybe it’s a co-worker at the office telling us what to do, maybe it’s someone on twitter questioning us on a hot take, and we react from a bruised ego. Or maybe we want to be part of a clique, we want to be liked, and the easiest route to that is to pick on someone else, cut somebody down, laugh at their misfortune, become the bully ourselves.

The hockey world is as fertile ground for this as anywhere in our society. For 18 years, people tried to bully the Sedins. And for 18 years, the Sedins utterly refused to be bullied – not by punching back, or lashing out, or finding someone else to pick on. They simply rose above every jab, every taunt, every attempt to undermine them. They were just bigger.

Even when a Stanley Cup was on the line, and an insecure, mean-spirited manchild named Brad Marchand was punching a Sedin in the face repeatedly, that Sedin simply took the punches and skated away, because that Sedin was so much bigger, better, stronger. Even when some fans and media blamed those Sedins for the loss of the series precisely for not “being a man” and swearing and throwing punches, the Sedins were unmoved, because winning was never more important than their integrity as people.

They honestly didn’t care if you thought they weren’t “man” enough. And in that way, they were the best role model a young man could possibly have.

The last goodbye, sort of, but hopefully not really, right?

So it comes to this: one last game against the Oilers in Edmonton. After everything that has happened in the last 72 hours, it doesn’t matter how this game goes. Of course, it would be wonderful for the Sedins to go out with one last victory, but I don’t think anything could top what we have already witnessed and it’s hard to imagine that the Vancouver Canucks have much left in the tank.

As several people have noted, the timing of the Sedins’ announcement has dramatically ended the debates about tanking v. winning. Fine by me.

They are painful debates marked by bitterness and resentment at a team whose direction is unclear and not especially promising. The string of wins prior to the Sedins’ announcement all but guaranteed that the Canucks will not have prime draft position anyway, so I’m probably not the only team-tanker who has thrown in the towel and is cheering for the Sedins to win out the season.

Thankfully, the Oilers’ victory on Tuesday means they are out of reach, so there are no real implications in terms of the head-to-head matchup. Of course, if Vancouver loses, it is still theoretically possible for Arizona, Montreal and Detroit to catch or overtake them. But the most likely scenario is that most or all of those teams will lose anyway, and the Canucks are going to be drafting in the 5-10 slot.

Unless, of course, Vancouver sends the Sedins to the draft lottery instead of Trevor Linden.

After what happened on Thursday night, I am 100% convinced that the hockey gods are finally paying the Sedins back for everything they have sacrificed at that altar. I want to see Daniel and Henrik, smiling like serene gods, as Gary Bettman announces that the winner of the draft lottery, inexplicably, is the Vancouver Canucks.

Then I want to see them at the draft, shaking the hand of the Canucks future no 1 blueliner, Rasmus Dahlin.

Then I want to see them standing beside a whiteboard, drawing up plays, while Dahlin, Jonathan Dahlen, and Elias Pettersson stare up wide-eyed at these legends in their midst.

Then I want to see them smiling in the pressbox while those kids bring the Canucks back to the Stanley Cup.

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Then I want to see their tears when the Vancouver Canucks finally win one.

Speaking of tears, I’m out. Here’s to Henrik and Daniel, the greatest of us all.