On February 12, 2020, the Vancouver Canucks honor two of their true greats. Henrik and Daniel Sedin were the ultimate unit in the NHL. Identical twin brothers who had an almost telepathic understanding of the other ones play. Describe recently as ‘a cheat code’ they excited Canucks fans for 18 wonderful seasons. As a self-confessed Canucks fan, I cannot express in words what the Sedins mean to this franchise.
Having their numbers raised to the rafters is the most fitting tribute imaginable. However, getting them to Vancouver in the first place was a job in itself and for this, we take you back to the year of our lord 1999. The Canucks were a team in dire need of a superstar to resurrect this flagging franchise. The highs of the 1994 cup final run were a distant memory. Vancouver had finished rock bottom of the Northwest division and 13th and last in the Western Conference.
Key names such as Pavel Bure and Trevor Linden had been traded away. Replacement veteran Mark Messier had been an expensive and lackluster flop. Despite the scoring talent of Markus Naslund and the solid work of d-man Bryan McCabe, Mike Keenan and GM Brian Burke were treading water. Entering into the 1999 draft, the Canucks held the number 3 pick which would land them a solid talent. However, this time Burke wanted to make a splash and fittingly two young Sedin’s strolled into view.
The Sedin twins were two players with potential beyond the imagination. Products of the notable Swedish hockey team Modo, the pair had torn up the Swedish Elite League the season prior. Both named co-league MVP, any of the top 5 teams at the drafted wanted either one of the brothers. There was a big catch involved though, like the INXS song the Sedins request was simple ‘Never Tear Us Apart’.
Most coaches and GM’s saw the benefits of playing the Sedin’s together. However, this presented a logical draft nightmare for many teams because it would mean combining multiple picks together to have even a slim chance of selecting them. Brian Burke would have to pull off a magic trick to get his men.
Though Czech centre Patrik Stefan was the clear first overall choice, Vancouver wanted Henrik and Daniel by any means necessary. To stand any chance, Burke made the bold choice of trading the popular McCabe to Chicago for a first-round pick. This now gave him 3rd and 4th overall and a fighting chance of getting both men. Soon buzz started flying about Tampa Bay wanting to select Daniel Sedin first overall pick- it was time to get busy!
Never one to shy away from wheeling and dealing, Burke traded his 4th overall pick and two later-round selections to Tampa Bay to grab the first overall pick. Then he parleyed with the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers to give them to pick he had acquired from the Lightning to secure him the second and third selections. This trade was not without assurances and Burke made sure that Thrashers GM Don Waddell would not pick either Sedin.
Finally obtaining the 2nd and 3rd overall picks he needed, Burke was free to select his targets. The Thrashers took Stefan at number one, whose brief and unprosperous career soon became more infamous for his cringe-worthy open net miss in 2007. The 1999 draft is not remembered for its depth and despite first-rounders Martin Havlat and Barret Jackman making long careers, only 16 out of the 28 first rounders played 82 NHL games.
Success didn’t come immediately for the Sedins either. After slow but steady progress for two seasons, they soon ignited and a legacy was born. Brian Burke’s contract was not renewed after the 2003-04 season. While he has faced criticism in recent years (particular for his ill-advised 2009 Phil Kessel trade while Leafs GM), he put two key building blocks in place which resurrected hockey in B.C!