Freaky Good

May 04, 2009
May 04, 2009

Table of Contents
May 4, 2009

  • The first-round series between Boston and Chicago proved to be a first-class fight as the upstart Bulls played without fear and the Celtics struggled to mount a title defense with one superstar very notably absent

  • The Canucks' Daniel and Henrik Sedin are beyond symbiotic: They skate on the same line, score the same number of points and play identity tricks on refs. They're also in the second round, so who cares if their coach can't tell them apart?


Freaky Good

The Canucks' Daniel and Henrik Sedin are beyond symbiotic: They skate on the same line, score the same number of points and play identity tricks on refs. They're also in the second round, so who cares if their coach can't tell them apart?

Twins are astaple of the Bible (Jacob and Esau), mythology (Romulus and Remus) and TMZ(Mary-Kate and Ashley), but they are also fertile territory for scientificresearch. Unlike anecdotal evidence for fuzzy but popular concepts (say,leadership in NHL dressing rooms or blondes having more fun), studies aboutthose who share 100% of their genetic material can shine a light on humanbehavior—and get a little spooky. The metaphysical connection between identicaltwins sometimes seems as significant as their DNA.

This is an article from the May 4, 2009 issue

Consider the caseof the so-called Jim Twins, which appears in the book Entwined Lives by NancyL. Segal, director of the Twin Studies Center at Cal State--Fullerton. Split upat four weeks and then living separately for 39 years without knowledge of oneanother, the men, both named Jim, married women named Linda, divorced them andthen married women named Betty. They gave their sons the same name. The twinssmoked the same brand of cigarettes, drank the same brand of beer. Theyvacationed at the same Florida beach and drove light-blue Chevrolets. Identicaltwins may not be telepathic but a case study like that of the Jims, leads to aninevitable question: When St. Louis winger David Backes cross-checkedVancouver's Henrik Sedin in Game 3 of the Canucks' sweep of the Blues in thefirst round of this year's playoffs, did Daniel Sedin's face hurt?

The answer, saysDaniel, grinning, is no. The twins, preparing for round 2, were in Vancouver,sitting in the players' lounge, where they go online to chart the progress ofracehorses they jointly own back home. They both drink black coffee, gallons ofit. They have the same taste in fashion (high-end jeans, T-shirts). They'regolf handicaps are within two strokes. But while they do feel for eachother—"If I know he's having a tough time, I'll go through the samefeelings even though I don't have the same problem," Daniel says—they don'tfeel each other's actual on-ice pains. They say they've never shared one ofthose eerie "twin moments," although Henrik's saucer passes, over adefender's stick and onto his brother's tape, can look mystical. Brian Burke,the former general manager who made a series of Byzantine trades in order toselect the twins with the second (Daniel) and third (Henrik) picks of the 1999draft, once intimated that the Sedins communicate differently from you and me.He's right. The twins speak Swedish.

"I've beenhere 3½ years and never seen them argue," says Alex Burrows, the "thirdtwin" who plays right wing on the Sedins' line. "They're alwaystogether. At the rink, outside the rink, driving home, on the plane. They'renever frustrated. Always smiling." Indeed, the Sedins exuded an air ofcontentment long before their masterly duet against St. Louis helped redefinetheir NHL careers.

Facing the usualattention, which included a checking line plus roughhouse treatment from Bluesdefensemen Barret Jackman and Roman Polak, the twins were resolute."They'll hit back," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault says. "Peoplethink they can intimidate them, but it goes the other way now. [Roughtreatment] gets them more into the game." Daniel, the shooter, had twogoals and three assists. Henrik, the playmaker, had a goal and three assists.They were both +4. They both had 11.1 shooting percentages. After failing tomake an impact in seven playoff series before this year—the twins were vilifiedin 2007 after combining for just two points in a five-game second-round loss toAnaheim—they are now, at 28, on the cusp of joining goalie Roberto Luongo ascivic treasures. Last Thursday, The Vancouver Province even ran a picturecelebrating Henrik's playoff beard. It was, of course, Daniel's.

"Our firstfew playoffs, we were second- or third-line [players]," Daniel says."People think we were playing 19 or 20 minutes like now, but we weren't....We never doubted that we could do it in the playoffs too."

The doubters, andchallengers, were in the rest of the hockey world. Henrik and Daniel weretargets long before becoming first-line players. "Sedin is not English forpunch me in the face or headlock me in a scrum," Burke memorably saidduring a 2002 series against Detroit. The twins have been just as abused offthe ice, even derided as the Sedin Sisters. "I think the reason they'vegotten crap from the media ... is there are two of them," Canucksdefenseman Mattias Ohlund says. "Also, they don't have a Canadian,in-your-face kind of game. They're more [about] skill and playing a little moreon the outside. But they've been incredibly consistent."

Since asking forenhanced roles on the team at a meeting in London with former coach MarcCrawford and former G.M. Dave Nonis during the 2004--05 lockout—"The twinsare so polite, they had trouble expressing their feelings that they had more tocontribute," Nonis says—they have fulfilled their end of the deal, thisseason ranking among the NHL's top 20 scorers. In the past four years Danielhas 311 points. Henrik has 314.

Overall Danielhas 462 career points in 642 games; Henrik has 460 in 646. They had anidentical 82 this season. On their combined 288 goals, the other twin hasassisted 65% of the time. "This," associate coach Rick Bowness says,"is incredible."

At least Bownesscan tell which twin is which. Vigneault hasn't the foggiest. Daniel isVigneault's default name. When one of the twins walks by, the coach will say,"How's it going, Danny?"

"I've got a50-50 chance of being right," Vigneault says. "They'll say, 'No, no,'or 'Yes, yes.' When it's a serious moment, I'll say, 'Which one areyou?'"

You want doublejeopardy? In January the Canucks' Kyle Wellwood was nabbed on a too-many-menpenalty when he thought Henrik, a fellow center, was coming off the ice. Infact it was Daniel, a left wing.

Once during thetwins' second season, when Henrik was kicked out of a face-off circle, heskated around and went back to take the draw without the linesman being thewiser. Crawford recalls once airing out Henrik between periods for blowingcoverage on a face-off. Then the coach stormed into the dressing room, whereDaniel stopped him and said he was the one who had erred. Henrik had never saida word.

In fact, thereare differences in how they look: Henrik has a broader forehead, a higherhairline; Daniel has a more angular face. "I could tell them apart, butonly when they were together," says Nonis. "I used to half hope one ofthem would take a stick to the face. That way for the next few weeks, therewould be a distinguishing mark."

Eligible for freeagency on July 1, the Sedins are in hockey limbo. The twins could stay inVancouver. They might go. The only certainty is, the twins will remaintogether. Package deal: two for the price of two. Says Henrik, "I don'tthink anyone wants us by ourselves."

Daniel and Henrikcould become the evil twins if they bolt this hockey-first city, but for themoment they are revered as two-in-a-million guys. If Vancouver wins its firstStanley Cup this June, maybe Gillis can check with the estates of Jim and Jimto see if Henrik and Daniel can borrow those vintage light-blue Chevrolets forthe parade.

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The Sedins will be free agents, and some team will geta package deal: two for the price of two.
PHOTOPhotograph by JEFF VINNICKWHO'S WHO? Left wing Daniel (22), the shooter of the two, and center Henrik, the playmaker, had an identical plus-4 rating in Vancouver's first-round sweep of the Blues (above). Their career scoring totals are only two points apart.PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO[See caption above]PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHOTWICE IS HARD The twins, who are among the best in the NHL at cycling the puck through the offensive zone, have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs.