They don't see it. Honestly. Henrik and Daniel Sedin know they
look like brothers, obviously, but like identical twins? Can't
people tell Henrik is an inch taller and five pounds heavier?
That Daniel's mouth is tighter? That Henrik's jaw is more
pronounced? Then there's that clearly distinguishing mark:
Henrik's right front tooth, which was chipped a few weeks ago by
a high stick during a Swedish Elite League game.
The Sedin (pronounced se-DEEN) twins--possibly the best and, at
18, certainly the youngest players in the league--play for MoDo,
whose pulp and paper mills provide a living for most of the
58,000 people living in and around Ornskoldsvik and whose hockey
team provides for the citizens' spiritual health. Ornskoldsvik
is to hockey what San Pedro de Macoris is to baseball. This town
on the Gulf of Bothnia, almost equidistant between Stockholm and
the Arctic Circle, has produced or nurtured more, and better,
NHL players per capita than any other city outside North
America: Anders Hedberg, Thomas Gradin, Tommy Jonsson, Lars
Molin and Bo Berglund of previous generations and a current
group that includes the Vancouver Canucks' Markus Naslund, the
New York Rangers' Nicklas Sundstrom, the Detroit Red Wings'
Anders Ericksson, the Boston Bruins' Mattias Timander and the
most complete player in the NHL, Colorado Avalanche center Peter
Forsberg, who is known here as Foppa.
"Hockey is a lifestyle there, part of the fabric of the
community," says Hedberg, the Toronto Maple Leafs' assistant
general manager who was Ornskoldsvik's first export to North
America in 1974, a linemate of Bobby Hull's with the WHA's
Winnipeg Jets and later a Rangers star. "You come from there,
you know you have to train hard, you know you have to live a
healthy lifestyle, because your neighbors are all watching. Your
hockey career isn't your own but a social responsibility,
something you owe the community. The Sedins will always have
that in their luggage."
Thus, when they arrive in Winnipeg for the World Junior Hockey
Championship, which starts on Dec. 26, Daniel and Henrik--who
both figure to be among the top five selections in the NHL draft
next June--won't be traveling light.
December 21, 1998
Henrik and Daniel are sitting in a coffee shop a block from
their school in Ornskoldsvik, where in late November the sky
turns from black to a soft gray at 9 a.m., then recedes to black
six hours later. MoDo is a night job, paying about $750 a month
and an additional $180 a game. By day the Sedins study at
Nolaskolan Gymnasium, equivalent to an American high school,
where teachers still call Daniel "Henrik" and Henrik "Daniel" or
sometimes tvilling--twin. (The Sedins accept misidentification
as a matter of course, although every once in a while it does
get their zygotes.) They have just come from tackling integers
in calculus class, and though soon the only integers they will
ever have to worry about will be the ones in their NHL
contracts, they treat school with a proper, endearing
earnestness. Each orders a fruit soda and a pastry. Though
Henrik does most of the talking, it's not because his command of
English is necessarily better than his brother's; both the boys
speak it relatively well. It's because Daniel defers to his
older sibling (Henrik was born six minutes earlier), often
glancing at him before answering questions.
"Maybe we are better players than Forsberg when he was our age,"
Daniel says, "but look what happened when he got older."
"Anyone who compares us to Forsberg," Henrik interrupts.
Too late. Daniel and Henrik got their visas to Foppaland stamped
last year after they made the MoDo senior team at 17, the same
age as the precocious Forsberg had. (A handful of the Swedish
League players are NHL-caliber, but most are minor league
level.) Daniel was distinctly the better Sedin last season, a
scorer who could play either wing and had more speed than his
brother. Henrik, a center and, like his brother, a lefthanded
shot, didn't play as much. Now that Henrik is taking regular
shifts this season with Daniel on the top line on Sweden's top
team, Daniel's edge over his brother is about a quarter of an
inch--if the space between MoDo coach Per Backman's thumb and
forefinger can be accurately gauged.
Henrik, who has seven goals and 13 assists in 28 games through
Sunday, plays defense more responsibly. Daniel, with 10 goals
and 13 assists, has a harder shot and a little more flair. They
both have a knack for coming out of a scrum along the boards
with the puck, and while they're physically imposing--Henrik is
6'2", 210 pounds--unlike Forsberg, they're not especially
physical. They are, however, conspicuously smart. After Daniel
scored a goal and Henrik had an assist last month in a 4-2
victory against Stockholm's Djurgardens IF at Kempehallen, a
low-slung barn outside Ornskoldsvik that seats 2,500 and stands
4,000 more, linemate Anders Soderberg said, "I played with Foppa
during the [1994-95 NHL] lockout. The only difference is there
was one of him and two of them."
There have been Twin Towers (Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson,
among others), twin killings (6-4-3; Romulus offing Remus), Twin
Peaks, the Twins (Gemini or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen,
depending on whether you like your stars in the heavens or on
TV) and Twin Cities. There are identical twins who played on the
same page, like Rich and Ron Sutter, the youngest of the six
Sutter brothers who carved out decent careers as hockey
plumbers, and those who are simply on the same page of the
Baseball Encyclopedia, like the slugging Jose Canseco and his
footnote brother, Ozzie. There have been Twin Spires (Churchill
Downs) and inspired twins, like Dick and Tom Van Arsdale, NBA
swingmen who each averaged at least 19.2 points for a
four-season stretch that began in 1968-69.
But Daniel and Henrik can go a little further than even the
indistinguishable Van Arsdales did and set the standard for
athletic doubles, even if they never quite become Forsberg2.
"What I like about the twins is that they see all the problems
on the ice," says Edmonton Oilers scout Kent Nilsson, a Swede
who scored 264 goals in his NHL career. "Good players solve
problems. Bad players move the problem a couple of yards and
hope a teammate solves it. The twins are problem solvers."
Probably the sweetest solution came last April in the European
junior championship. Sweden needed at least a four-goal victory
over Russia, or the gold medal would go to archrival Finland.
During one shift that already has found its way into Norse
legend, the Sedins kept possession against five Russian skaters
for almost two minutes. Henrik finished the first period with a
goal and an assist and Daniel with two assists, and Sweden was
on its way to a 5-1 win and the title. "From the opening
face-off they were unstoppable," Edmonton vice president of
hockey operations Doug Risebrough says. "They were men against
boys." Three months later Daniel and Henrik were men against
gods, competing against Forsberg and some Swedish NHL players in
a charity game at Kempehallen. Of course, Foppa was on holiday,
but scouts agree that Daniel and Henrik outplayed him. When the
match is brought up in the coffee shop, the twins simultaneously
lower eyes that are a shade of blue rarely seen outside of
religious statuary. They say nothing.
"The question isn't, Who's a better player? but, Who's the
better player without the other one?" says Don Waddell, general
manager of the expansion Atlanta Thrashers, who will begin play
next season and are guaranteed one of the first three picks in
June. "We have to know which one can stand alone, which is how
we've framed it for our scouts. We've checked their birth
certificates. We've met with them, researched the family and
friends and are turning over every stone so that when draft day
comes and it's our pick and we happen to take one of them, it's
the right one."
This NHL draft is no Breeders' Cup: The Sedins can't enter as
numbers 1 and 1A. Nor is it a buy one, get one free deal. For
them to wind up in the same uniform seems highly unlikely. No
team has stockpiled first-round picks for 1999, and a draft-day
deal in which a team would land a second high pick is wishful
thinking. The twins are going their separate ways, unless....
On Sept. 18 the boys' agent, IMG hockey president Mike Barnett,
sent the Sedin family a five-page, single-spaced letter
outlining options if Daniel and Henrik decide they want to try
to stay together. They can enter the draft in 1999 and become
unrestricted free agents two years later--provided they move to
North America to play junior hockey and don't sign with their
NHL club. Their parents, Tommy, a school vice principal and a
MoDo player in the '60s, and Tora, a nurse, aren't enthusiastic
about the idea. Henrik, Daniel and their two older brothers,
Stefan and Peter, are the sixth generation of Tora's family to
live in the same sprawling house built of blond spruce and
decorated in good taste on the outskirts of Ornskoldsvik, and no
one is in a hurry to leave. The twins plan to play at least
another year for MoDo and finish high school.
The other option would be for one brother to stay out of next
year's draft--officially the draft is for 19-year-olds, although
18-year-olds can opt in--and hope the team that picks, say,
Daniel in 1999 can get Henrik in 2000, a long shot at best and a
gambit with limited appeal. Daniel and Henrik could go as high
as Nos. 1 and 3, which would be reminiscent of the drafting of
Ron and Rich Sutter, who were taken fourth by the Philadelphia
Flyers and 10th by the Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively, in '82.
Something inside Daniel and Henrik whispers that it would be
swell to establish separate identities, as the Van Arsdales did,
but they are wary of ruining a good thing. "Of course, we can't
be sure of being together in the NHL, but it would be nice,"
Henrik says. "We play well together. We know where each other
will be on the ice. It's like we have one brain."
This is no eerie twin thing, no genetic doppelganging up on
opposing defensemen. They are different off the ice--Henrik is
calmer, Daniel is more of an extrovert, and neither considers
the other his best friend--and they doubt biology has much to do
with their being mirror images on it. With the exception of last
season the twins have been linemates since Daniel shifted from
center to wing at 14. Theirs is a partnership of years of
practice, not unlike the one Forsberg and Naslund had when they
were coming up together.
"Together the twins are 100 percent," says Gradin, a Vancouver
scout who was another Ornskoldsvik 200-goal man. "They're good
enough to play with anyone, but separately their capacity might
decrease by 10 or 15 percent." Another Swedish NHL scout says
their chemistry makes each of them 25% better when they play on
the same line.
Extrapolating from the scouts' assessments, Daniel and Henrik
might be the first players to actually give 125%. As they can
tell you over at the magazines that have centerfolds, Swedish
twins are really special.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin could become the NHL's fourth set of
identical twins since 1982, and if history repeats itself, they
will one day wear the same uniform. The Sutters played together
with the Flyers in the mid-1980s, the Sundstroms were on the
1989-90 Devils, and the Ferraros skated together for the Rangers
and the Penguins. Five of the six twins got a scoring boost from
playing with their brothers. --David Sabino
TWINS CAREER GAMES GAME GAMES GAME
Rich Sutter 1982-83 to 1994-95 191 0.43 683 0.34
Ron Sutter* 1982-83 to present 191 0.68 756 0.51
Patrik Sundstrom 1982-83 to 1991-92 21 1.00 658 0.86
Peter Sundstrom 1983-84 to 1989-90 21 0.14 317 0.45
Chris Ferraro 1995-96 to 1997-98 25 0.24 35 0.11
Peter Ferraro* 1995-96 to present 25 0.28 32 0.22
*Through Sunday's games.
"We play well together," says Henrik. "We know where each other
will be on the ice. It's like we have one brain."