The three best players in Vancouver Canucks history — with apologies to Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure — are now officially in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Roberto Luongo, Daniel Sedin, and Henrik Sedin were officially inducted into the Hall on Monday night in a ceremony in Toronto, alongside Daniel Alfredsson, Finnish great Riikka Sallinen, and builder Herb Carnegie.
It was a touching ceremony, particularly when Herb Carnegie’s daughter, Bernice Carnegie, spoke passionately about her father and the need to make hockey more inclusive and accepting.
For Canucks fans, the highlight was seeing three Vancouver legends take the stage and be recognized as three of the greatest hockey players of all time.
Daniel admits Henrik’s the best; Henrik agrees
Daniel Sedin was first to take the stage and he led with a quick quip before launching into the rest of his speech.
“First off, I want to thank whoever picked me to speak before Henrik,” said Daniel. “Reminds me of draft day.”
While soft-spoken, the Sedins have always been extremely competitive and were often at their most competitive with each other. Daniel has never shied away from an opportunity to point out that he was selected before Henrik at the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
But towards the end of his speech, Daniel took a moment to give Henrik his due.
“Henrik, I will only say this once,” said Daniel. “You have always been a calming influence in my life and it has made a difference, not only in my career as a hockey player, but also as a person.
“In my mind, you’re a better hockey player than me and a better person than me. And I’m saying this sincerely but also knowing that you will stand up here in ten minutes. Can’t wait to hear what you’re going to say about me.”
While some might expect Henrik to return the favour and insist, “No, no, you’re the better hockey player,” that wasn’t the case at all. When Henrik took the stage, he was quick with a quip of his own at the expense of his younger brother.
“As you might know, I’ve just recovered from COVID,” said Henrik. “It came down to a last-minute decision to attend but as our coaches always said, ‘Henrik at 70 per cent is a lot better than Daniel at 100.’”
At the end of his speech, he took advantage of being the second Sedin to speak and made sure everyone knew which Sedin was the best.
“Finally, because Daniel is not speaking after me, to end the debates of who the better player was — I missed 30 games in my career and his production was not the same,” said Henrik, with a twinkle in his eye. “In 2010, Daniel missed 20 games to a concussion and I had 11 goals and nine assists.
“So, with Daniel I was barely a 20-goal scorer — without him, I would have been a career 45-goal scorer.”
Well, that settles it.
“We want to play with this guy.”
The Sedins had dozens of people to thank and they said the previous week that they were coordinating their speeches to ensure that they didn’t double-up too much. For instance, Daniel spoke about the influence Anson Carter had on their careers, while Henrik thanked Trent Klatt for sacrificing “a couple good years in your career to teach two young Swedes how to play in North America.
They couldn’t help thanking some of the same people, of course, such as Brian Burke for pulling off the draft-day coup that got them both on the same NHL team and Marc Crawford for teaching them the early lessons that helped shape them into Hall-of-Fame players. They also praised former teammates Markus Naslund and Mattias Ohlund for helping them in the formative years of their careers.
Some of their kindest words were reserved for their most well-known linemate, Alex Burrows.
“Sitting on the bench, watching Alex Burrows play first few games in the NHL, I remember looking over at Henrik and we both said the same thing — we want to play with this guy,” said Daniel. “So smart, so driven, never took a day off.”
Henrik referenced a classic Burrows quote about how he and Daniel communicated on the ice.
“I’m not sure how we managed to have the success we had,” said Henrik. “You spoke French — we communicated like dolphins.”
“I'm happy to see you coach with the same passion and drive you have back when you played,” he added.”
Unsurprisingly, both Sedins also had nothing but kind words for their fellow inductee, Roberto Luongo.
“To Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler, Alex Edler, and Jannik Hansen — you guys came up a couple of years after us,” said Henrik. “Thanks for helping create a culture where results were just a byproduct of our everyday process.
“Roberto, you were the face of that culture. I've never been around anyone with the same determination and willingness to do anything to get better. It's an honor to be here tonight with you.”
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is truly an honour,” said Daniel. “But doing it alongside Roberto makes it so much more special. You raised the standards of our team and made everyone believe that average was never an option. I'm proud to call you a friend.”
Luongo: all about family
The Sedins spent most of their speeches thanking their family but it’s hard to compare to Luongo’s speech, which was almost entirely about family, which is fitting given his heritage, as Luongo himself said in an anecdote about his first agent.
“My agent, the late Gilles Lupien, I remember when I was 15, he came to the rink,” said Luongo. “I was sitting there with my mom and he said, you guys need to be ready because your son won’t be living at home anymore.
“So, that was kind of a shock at 15 years old…I don’t know if you guys understand what Italian families are like, but you don’t move away at 15 years old — you move away when you get married. Some of my friends are still living at home.”
He talked about the influence of his parents and brothers when he was younger but perhaps his grandmother is who really taught him how to be a goaltender when he was little.
“I started loving hockey and I was alone with my grandmother every day and it was like, Grandma, do you want to go downstairs and play hockey in the basement?” said Luongo. “So, I threw an apron on her with an oven mitt and a frying pan, I stick her by the table, and that was the goal. I’d shoot pucks at her all day long.
“She seemed to enjoy it, I don’t know.”
As befitting Luongo, it was a funny, heartfelt speech that touched on so many memories and people who influenced him. He took a portion of his speech to call out the goaltenders he played with along the way, particularly Cory Schneider, who he called his “best partner” and “an awesome guy.”
Luongo also had special words for one particular backup.
“I also wanted to give a special shout out to Danny Sabourin who came in relief when I had my bathroom shenanigans that one game in the playoffs,” he said.
The most meaningful moments of all three speeches, however, were when they talked about their immediate families: their wives and kids. It was so evident how important family is to all three players and the wives are often the unsung heroes, as all the work they do is behind the scenes.
“A lot of times, you were left on your own,” said Luongo, “because we were on the road playing cards — winning at cards, mostly, for me — and you were holding down the fort at home. As athletes, sometimes you take that a little bit for granted but I just wanted to say that I admire you and I love you so much and thank you for everything.”