SUN Hockey Pool

Henrik hits back at trash talk

Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin (L) fights for the puck with Columbus Blue Jackets' Fedor Tyutin...

Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin (L) fights for the puck with Columbus Blue Jackets' Fedor Tyutin (51) during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, December 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Matt Sullivan)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:22 AM ET

If people want to paint the Vancouver Canucks as the most hated team in the NHL, they are entitled to their opinion.

If critics want to slag the Sedin twins for not playing the “in-your-face” style of hockey promoted on Coach’s Corner every Saturday night, well, there is supposed to be freedom of speech in this country, right?

At the same time, it is easy to understand why Canucks captain Henrik Sedin is confused at some of the below-the-belt shots taken at both he, his brother and his team the past eight months.

“It’s pretty bad,” the personable Vancouver forward said during a phone interview on Friday. “I think it’s sad. I thought we were past this.”

The Sedins have thicker skins than you might think. They’ve had to in order to survive life in the NHL since 1999.

At the same time, there was an expectation that, as time went on and they established themselves in the best league in the world, such external garbage would subside.

It hasn’t. Back in June, during the Stanley Cup final, the phrase “The Suh-deen Sistahs suck!” was heard from the raucous pro-Boston throng at the TD Garden. Fair enough. It’s hard to muzzle fans. They pay their money, they fire their sarcastic missiles ... as long as the language stays at a family level, of course.

But to hear former player and GM-turned-broadcaster Mike Milbury refer to the twins as “Thelma and Louise” sparked a lot of outrage out on the left coast at the time. As well it should have.

Of course, Milbury has his own issues to deal with these days.

This past week, however, it was Chicago Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland’s turn, calling the twins “sisters” and claiming he would not want them on the Blackhawks.

Bolland later would say that his comments were made in jest, adding that he respected the twins. Of course, that didn’t stop coach Alain Vigneault from firing back.

“Dave Bolland has an IQ the size of bird seed and a face only a mother can love,” Vigneault told reporters.

Yes, we know the old adage about “sticks and stones.” And a little heated trash talk never hurt anyone. In fact, for media members who don’t hear nearly enough juicy quotes in this age of politically correct millionaire athletes, we welcome it.

But, come on. Can’t it be a little more imaginative than this?

“People that don’t really cover us or aren’t around us as a team, they hear statements made on TV and seem to base their opinions on that,” Henrik Sedin said. “People just seem to buy into what they hear. It’s just an easy thing for them to do. That’s too bad because they don’t really know us or our team.

“Over in Europe, you hear some bad things from the media. But we thought that when we came to the NHL, there would be more integrity.”

Critics of the Canucks are quick to tell you why they don’t like Vigneault’s team. They accuse Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre of being bad actors in the playoffs last spring, a claim some league officials agree with. They feel the Sedins embellish in order to draw penalties instead of being tougher. And they insist they don’t get warm fuzzy feeling whenever GM Mike Gillis speaks.

To each his own. But what can’t be argued is that, like ’em or hate ’em, this is one of the most talented teams in the league, one that is rocketing up the standings after a slow start.

“It was a short summer,” Henrik admitted. “One moment, you are playing in June; the next thing you know, training camp was here.

“We had to get guys like Manny Malhotra and Ryan Kesler healthy, too. It took about 10 games to get going.”

But the Canucks are “going” now as they make their annual visit to Toronto to face the Leafs on Saturday.

If you don’t like them, feel free to boo. Or heckle. Just keep it clean.

And while you are at it, take a moment to admit that Henrik and his teammates are pretty good.

SEDIN'S ARE 'GRATEFUL'

BUFFALO — Even to this day, the Sedins admit they owe a lot to Brian Burke and David Nonis.

Back in 1999, Burke, then the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, wheeled and dealed his way into position to draft the two highly regarded Swedish twins with the Nos. 2 and 3 picks in the NHL entry draft.

Years later, Nonis, who followed Burke as Canucks GM, was urged by some in Vancouver to trade one, if not both, of the twins. Nonis didn’t take the bait, showing his loyalty and commitment to the Sedins.

Asked if they sometimes think about how much Burke and Nonis have meant to their careers, Henrik Sedin replied: “Absolutely.

“We think about it, sure,” the Canucks captain added. “Both those guys played a big part in us being in this league and for the success we’ve had.

“For sure, we are grateful to them.”

Burke is now the GM of the Maple Leafs, while Nonis is his right-hand man.

 


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