By Larry Wigge
I asked Henrik Sedin to show me his driver's license or photo ID at the All-Star Game in Atlanta in 2008. He wouldn't ... but I knew it was not his identical twin brother, Daniel, because Daniel's wife was back home in Vancouver ready to give birth to their second child.
Aha! I got you.
There were no quick-switch parent trap-like changes in identity to fool unsuspecting reporters ... as they often have done in the past. The identity of the enormously creative and productive Sedins with the Vancouver Canucks was often muddled -- even by people the twins see in their own locker room every day.
What make the Sedins so good is that they do it together. Henrik won the Art Ross scoring title in 2010, en route to his Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP. Daniel won the Ross Trophy the following year.
It's been said that the two are so much alike that they often finish one another's sentences.
"Well ... it happens once in a while," Henrik winked.
More often than just awhile ...
But we're into the here and now -- with the Canucks on the verge of elimination in the first round of the playoffs in 2012 to the Los Angeles Kings. The reason the Canucks were down 3-0 was simple, Daniel has been out of the lineup since March 21 -- 12 games -- with concussion like symptoms the result of a hit by Chicago's Duncan Keith.
In Game 4, Daniel returned to give Canucks a 3-1 victory. Henrik got Vancouver third goal, while Daniel set him up for it.
It was back to the future with the incomparable Sedins. While orchestrating the day-in, day-out offense of the Vancouver offense with their dazzling cycling -- weaving in and out of traffic, in constant motion, always looking for the right moment, when suddenly there's an open man and a goal-scoring opportunity.
Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter put the loss more succinctly, "The difference was 22 and 33's performance."
Exactly. For those of you who must be introduce to Daniel and Henrik Sedin, they are No. 22 and No. 33.
"I was hesitant ... I hadn't played for a while," Daniel replied. "But ..."
He took a second to gather his thoughts.
"I think once in while we need some time away from each other," Daniel explained. "As crazy as it sounds, I think that's the case. I think when we play together for a long time ... we tend to rely on each other a lot and we forget to work on our own game, to beat guys one on one and shoot the puck. It was a perfect example two years ago when I broke my foot. I came back and he played great and I could just fit in nicely."
The mystery, as much as it is delicious, has gotten out, says Henrik, "Daniel makes such a big difference because he knows where the holes are and can get to them. It's great to have him back."
At the Atlanta All-Star Game, the questions for Henrik were wide-ranging as we finally got to know a little more about these remarkable twins -- minus one -- who were born in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, on September 26, 1980.
In reality, Henrik was born six minutes before Daniel.
"Yeah, that's another thing I was first at ... but just barely," Henrik laughed. "I was born first and, though he might disagree, I'm more organized."
The differences ...
"Daniel is better at poker and water sports," Henrik said, ticking off differences between the twins. "But I'm better at soccer and golf. I haven't lost to him in golf yet (Henrik said he's a 13 handicap)."
When they play tennis, it's like hockey, always together. Henrik and Daniel have been playing hockey together, same line almost always through the years, since they were 9.
"Nearly 21 years," Henrik said proudly.
The twins complement one another so well that they came into this season with nearly identical point totals -- Henrik had 666 points and Daniel had 651.
Obviously, Henrik is the passer and Daniel the shooter.
Have they ever swapped girlfriends? "Never," said Henrik.
Have they ever swapped jerseys? "No," said Henrik. "But once in Sweden I got thrown out of the faceoff circle, skated over to the boards and then went back in and took the faceoff ... and didn't get caught."
That was before Daniel started wearing No. 22 and Henrik put on his No. 33 sweater.
"One night in Vancouver, I scored a goal and was injured, so Daniel went out right after the game and did the interview for me," Henrik laughed.
How do the Sedins' parents Tommy and Tora tell the twins apart?
"I don't know, but they've never gotten us confused -- not even on the phone," Henrik smiled.
Reporters may have trouble, but Henrik swears teammates don't have the same difficulty identifying the twins.
"Teammates can tell us apart after a while," Henrik said. "But most of the coaches don't have a clue. They'll come up to Daniel and say he has to check a player quicker deep in our zone defensively ... and he'll have to come over to me and tell me what I did wrong."
Not that there's much wrong with the way either Henrik or Daniel Sedin have played for the last 11 seasons in Vancouver.
Want more about the fascinating Sedins?
"We have two older brothers," Henrik said of Peter and Stefan. "It was always us vs. them. And we'd win."
In case, you wonder who would win.
It seems like so long ago now, that day in June of 1999, when then Canucks GM Brian Burke made deals with Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Chicago to get two of the top three picks in the draft in Boston to have the right to pick both Sedins.
"What is so attractive about the Sedins is that it seems like they are able to find one another in a scary way," Burke told me back then. "It's sort of like radar. They find each other in some of the most impossible spots on the ice. I said all along, the sum of one Sedin reduces the value. But getting both is like a double whammy for a team. That's why I worked so hard at getting this deal done."
While Daniel and Henrik were once promising young players, they are something much, much more now.
"We've been lucky enough to see them grow from great prospects into amazing stars in this league," Canucks captain Markus Naslund once told me. "What they do with the puck is so imaginative and instinctive. It can catch you standing around watching sometimes.
"They can seemingly create a great scoring chance in the blink of an eye."
The Sedins, Naslund and Peter Forsberg and former greats Anders Hedberg and Thomas Gradin all grew up in Ornskoldsvik, a town of about 60,000 people.
"Our dream growing up was to play for MoDo (in the Swedish Elite League), just like Markus and Peter did," Henrik said.
Naslund and Forsberg both went to the NHL ... and the twins followed them here, too -- with a pulse-raising flair and creativity.
Henrik said the twins feel they really came into their own the season after the lockout, 2006-07. The last past couple of summers the Sedins have had fun trying to become harder to knock off the puck. They do it while roller-blading ... 60-yard wind sprints while carrying 45-pound weight plates. Uphill. Twice weekly, along with at least two other workout sessions and forms of weight training each day this past summer.
"We also felt we had tried to become North Americanized, dumping the puck in and chasing after it -- and that's not our game," Henrik added. "We decided we'd do more cycling and quick passing -- things that we were successful at in Sweden."
That kind of tough, imaginative workout shows you how much these red-headed Swedish forwards want clearly are determined to star at the NHL level.
Every year they come back wanting to do more. They're driven.
"Yeah," said Henrik. "We like a challenge."
And the challenge for the rest of the NHL is to stop the Sedins -- one or both.