Long before Daniel Sedin’s iconic No. 22 is raised to the rafters at Rogers Arena, another Canucks legend, Markus Naslund, wore the same number for his first few games in Vancouver. Henrik and Daniel Sedin will join Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, and Naslund, whose numbers have already been retired by the organization. The Sedins were drafted second and third overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, and will also be the second and third players from a small town in Sweden, Ornskoldsvik, to receive this honor.
The Trade for Naslund
Naslund was drafted 16th overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he spent his first three seasons. He struggled alongside Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, and Jaromir Jagr, received limited ice time and failed to perform as expected.
In one of the most lopsided deals in NHL history, the Penguins traded Naslund to the Canucks at the 1996 NHL Trade Deadline for Alek Stojanov. Stojanov was the Canucks’ seventh-overall pick in the 1991 Draft, the same year Naslund was drafted.
From Naslund to the Sedins
Naslund spent 12 seasons wearing a Canucks sweater, and was captain for eight. He changed to his iconic No. 19 in the 1996-97 season, his first full season with the Canucks, following the departure of feisty forward Tim Hunter who wore No. 19 for three seasons before Naslund’s arrival.
During Naslund’s tenure, he and fellow running mates Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison formed the most dominant line in hockey, known as the West Coast Express. With a combination of size, speed, and skill, the trio worked in perfect unison. Racking up points and accolades, Naslund became a superstar; he was the Canucks’ all-time leader in goals with 346 and points at 756. However, another two forwards hailing from the same town have since surpassed him. The Sedins not only passed Naslund in points and goals but they also achieved high honours in the NHL.
Both Sedins won the Art Ross Trophy in back-to-back seasons, 2009-10 and 2010-11. Henrik also won the Hart in 2010, while Daniel won the Ted Lindsay Award, the same trophy that Naslund had previously won in 2003. The Sedins also found success off the ice as well, donating $1.5 million to the BC Children’s Hospital. Their work in the community did not go unnoticed as they both won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. To think that three hockey players from the same small town could achieve so much in North America and for one team is outstanding.
Ornskoldsvik has a rich history of producing NHL talent. The Sedins grew up watching Naslund and Peter Forsberg, both Ornskoldsvik natives. Traditionally a blue-collar, hard-working industrial town, it is also the home of superstar Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The local hockey team, Modo, plays in the second-tier Hockey Allsvenskan league. Highly regarded as one of the best franchises in Sweden, even in the second-tier, Naslund, Forsberg, and the Sedins all donned the Modo jersey before joining the NHL.
When the Sedins entered the league, Naslund was already an established star who had a front-row seat to watch their budding careers. He had only seen the Sedins play ball hockey in Sweden, so his knowledge of the highly-touted twins was limited. He had heard positive things, as former coaches and scouts declared the Sedins special. During their first training camp together, Naslund was impressed: “I remember getting maybe four or five breakaways,” he said during Saturday’s After Hours segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “I didn’t think much of it, but the puck all of a sudden was on my stick…That was really the first time I realized that these guys had something special.”
Up With Legends
The Sedins followed the same path as Naslund, from Modo to the Canucks. The influence and wisdom that Naslund brought to their first eight NHL seasons was astonishing. It is well known that Henrik and Daniel struggled through their first few seasons in the NHL, so much so that the twins contemplated returning to Sweden permanently. However, even if Naslund will not admit it or take credit as per his interview with Scott Rintoul of Sportsnet 650, his leadership was greatly appreciated by the twins. “It’s flattering. I think they’re making a bigger deal than it was. If I were to show them or help them in some way to have the careers they had then that’s great “. Being from the same small town, Naslund knew what needed to be done: hard work and will, something that the people of Ornskoldsvik know all too well.
The Sedins worked on their game, and much to the delight of Canucks fans, made the decision to stay. By having someone who not only grew up in the same small town but also experienced hard times at the beginning of his career as a first round pick, Naslund shared his own struggles and helped guide Henrik and Daniel to new levels. And because of that, Canucks fans get to celebrate a week dedicated to the twins. And during a week-long celebration, the Sedins will see No. 22 & 33 lifted to the rafters of Rogers Arena on Feb. 12.