VANCOUVER — Henrik Sedin isn’t exactly expansive when the subject is himself. But to understand what Friday night’s milestone meant to the Canucks’ captain, you just had to look at his face.
No, really. Look at his face.
When the twins first arrived in Vancouver, they both had the cuddly, rounded aspect of cherubs. They weren’t exactly chubby, but they were soft; softer than eider down, softer than cappuccino foam. Not only did that make them ill-suited for the NHL’s rigours, it basically made them plush toys for Adam Foote, Rob Blake and assorted other Western Conference blueliners.
“A lot of guys used to abuse us,” his brother Daniel fondly recounts. ”We didn’t start working out in the gym until we were 16 years old. We knew it was going to take time after those first two years. We knew we had to put in a lot of work in the summer to get to where we wanted to be.
“And we did.”
They surely did.
Friday night, in a game where the script writers got everything right except the final act, Daniel’s twin brother Henrik broke Markus Naslund’s franchise record for points — and if you were wondering how this came to pass, look at the pictures. Look at the hard edges on 2013-Henrik’s face. Look at the definition.
OK, don’t look too long. It gets kind of creepy.
But Sedin is the Canucks’ all-time scoring leader today because of the work he put in to transform his body; because of his commitment to the exhausting day-to-day regimen of building his strength and endurance one rep, one set, one wind sprint at a time.
In the end, that work says as much about Henrik as the points. The record is a testimonial to a number of qualities. Mostly, it’s about his commitment, his consistency, his ability to play the game at its highest level, then come the next night and do it all over again.
Maybe that explains the outpouring of emotion from the faithful on Friday night. Maybe that also explains why he’s revered in this province.
“It was very special,” King Henrik said of the three-minute standing ovation which greeted his record-setting point. “I don’t like to be the centre of attention but that was really special for me.”
In the interests of full disclosure, it should be noted Henrik’s milestone came on a night when the Canucks blew a 3-1 second period lead; their goaltending, in the person of Cory Schneider, let them down for the first time since the first game of the season; and they became distracted by some combination of Henrik’s big moment and three straight second-period fights which followed it.
But this isn’t the time to pick apart the Canucks’ performance. Ten years from now, no one will remember they soiled the sheets over the final 30 minutes.
They will, however, remember the man who set the franchise scoring record.
Point No. 757 came on a vintage piece of Sedinery midway through the second period. Earlier in the frame, the twins had engineered the Canucks’ first goal on some neat work around the Stars’ net, but the record-setter was suitable for framing. Off the rush, Henrik sent a cross-ice, saucer pass right into Alex Burrows’s wheelhouse and the twins longtime linemate rifled a one-timer past Stars goalie Richard Bachman.
The crowd was on their feet while the Canucks were still swarming Henrik. They stayed that way for a good three minutes, through three line changes before a stoppage in play started it all over again.
“Ah, no,” Henrik said earlier when asked if he’s thought about his journey to Naslund’s record. “I might do that when my career’s over. Again, we’ve been here a long time. If you have a few successful seasons like we’ve had in the past you find yourself in this position.”
And you wouldn’t expect him to be distracted by a personal achievement, no matter the size of that achievement. The points, the records, the hardware have always been the residue of something else for the twins — something about the preparation and effort that went into their careers.
If you throw your mind back to those early years, this night didn’t seem possible. But there was Henrik on Friday night, saluting the crowd as he was being saluted by the faithful.
“We were lucky,” he says. “We could have easily been someplace else now. If we didn’t have people around us who believed in us and trusted us, they could have easily traded us. You see it happen around the league. It’s nice to show they made the right decision.”
Lucky, he says. That’s an interesting interpretation. After their first NHL season, the twins were painfully aware — emphasis on pain — that their bodies weren’t ready for the demands of the NHL and they certainly weren’t ready for the cycling game they favoured along the boards.
So they set about to change that. The great leap forward came in ‘05-06 when the lockout seemed to magically transform the twins into point-a-game players. But what’s missed there is the work they put in which allowed them to play their game, which allowed the skill and creativity to shine.
Eight seasons later, it’s still shining.
“The only thing they know is, if things aren’t working, then put more work into it,” says Burrows. “Every summer they’ve got stronger. They push everybody on this team. They don’t look that big or strong but they’re really, really strong. It’s sheer dedication.
“It would have been easy for them to do the minimum and not do the extra. They made sure they were going to be elite players in the league by putting in the work.”
Roger Takahashi has been the Canucks’ strength and conditioning coach since ‘03. His first summer on the job, he was sent to Sweden to check on the twins.
He didn’t check long.
“I remember coming back and telling the coaches, those are the last two guys you have to worry about,” says Takahashi, before adding. “They’re always the first into the gym, they get their work done and they don’t take shortcuts. The consistency of effort makes them what they are.
“That’s the kind of thing that rubs off on other people.”
A whole lot of other people, and they were all on their feet on Friday night.