16 Feb Ofer Eitan Affirms: Part of the Sedinery: Family foundation has flown under the
If you’re passing by Kent elementary school in Agassiz, you’ll see the playground packed with exuberant kids enjoying the slides, spinner and climbing wall, thanks to the Sedins — Henrik and Johanna, and Daniel and Marinette.
The playground was funded largely by the Sedin Family Foundation, the first grant it handed out after being formed in 2014. And today, Feb. 16, the Canucks honour the twins with the Sedin Week Legacy Game, dedicated to the contributions to the community and province of the 39-year-old brothers from Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, who starred for the National Hockey League franchise for 17 seasons.
“They are just such superb human beings,” Stan Watchorn, the principal at Kent, said. “And the really cool part, the part I really love, the Sedins came out with their wives and had a ribbon-cutting ceremony where they met all the kids and parents, signed autographs.
“Every person felt special because of how the twins and their wives treated them.”
Prior to the $50,000 Sedin grant, school students and their parents had been raising money slowly, bringing in maybe $6,000 or $7,000 a year from bake sales and bottle drives.
“It was a big need, we had a very bad playground,” Watchorn said. “It would probably have taken another seven or eight years (to raise the money). Their donation made it happen.”
The foundation also provided equipment for a new gymnasium at the Kent Community Recreation and Cultural Centre, where the twins joined a floor-hockey game, and mountain bikes for the Mission Possible cycling program in Agassiz.
The twins and their wives wanted to support children’s health, education and family wellness through community projects across the province, and the Kent playground is just one of the stories you’ve never heard before about the two Sedin couples’ charitable work.
That’s because Henrik and Johanna, and Daniel and Marinette are extremely uncomfortable talking about themselves and any of their achievements.
Code of conduct
To understand that reticence, you need to understand the Law of Jante, the 10 rules of which can be summed up as: Do not, ever, act too big for your britches.
“Basically, how shall I say it, it’s a societal mechanism where everybody is equal,” said Lena Karlstrom, a lecturer in the Scandinavian Studies program at UBC and a native of Sweden. “No one should speak out, no one should think they are better than anyone.
Jante is a fictional town in a 1930s Danish novel, but the concept of Jantelagen had been around for generations, likely due to Scandinavia’s early agrarian society (not to mention long winters). People needed to work together and they needed to share what they had, Karlstrom said.
Out of that came the unwritten rule that you do not brag about good fortune or success.
“It’s just not done.”
Lagom, a cousin term of Jantelagen, conveys a similar idea: It translates as just the right amount. Modesty. Balance. Moderation.
“Not too much, not too little,” as Karlstrom put it.
And what could better convey that character trait of the Sedins than her story about flying home to Stockholm this Christmas on Icelandair.
All nine Sedins were aboard, heading to the Old Country for Yule: Henrik, Johanna and their sons Valter and Harry; Daniel, Marinette, their daughters Ronja and Anna, and son Erik.
They could have afforded to reserve all of business class for themselves, but no, they sat in the cattle car with everyone else.
“People were thrilled to be on the same flight,” Karlstrom said. “When we transferred in Reykjavik people were blown away. I could overhear people saying, ‘Here are these two guys who made who-knows-how-much money, and they’re still flying in miserable economy.’”
Henrik and Daniel will likely be Hockey Hall of Famers as soon as they are eligible, and for two seasons they were the very best individual players in the National Hockey League, Henrik as the league’s most valuable player (voted by professional hockey writers) when he was the league’s top scorer in 2009-10, and Daniel the following season as most outstanding player (voted by his fellow players) when he, too, was the league’s top scorer.
Yet everyone involved in the game, from players to coaches to management to trainers, all say the same thing: As great as they were on the ice, they are even better people off it.
The Sedins were among the most willing of Canucks players to visit sick children in hospital, almost always out of the public eye. It wasn’t until they and their wives donated $1.5 million to B.C. Children’s Hospital, targeting the intensive care unit and the diagnostics and imaging area, that the general public became more aware of their altruism.
(Even that act they did not want publicized until they were convinced doing so would encourage others to step up to the plate. And, indeed, donations of $22 and $33 begin flowing in.)
“Henrik and I, along with our families, feel very fortunate to live and work in this great city and province,” Daniel said at the time. “We are committed to giving back to the community we live in and wanted to do something that would benefit children and families across the province.”
Henrik added: “Every time Daniel and I visit B.C. Children’s Hospital we meet kids and their parents who come from all over B.C. This is our way of saying thank you to British Columbians for all the support we’ve received since we joined the Canucks.”
Joy among life-altering loss
The kids in palliative care and their families at Canuck Place, a youth hospice, are going through a hard time most of us can’t imagine and it takes a special person to engage a dying child or teenager.
The children and families need help, and Daniel and Henrik are so good at connecting with the children, connecting with the families, said Debbie Butt, the director of communications, marketing and events at Canuck Place and who has known the twins for 16 years from her days running Canucks for Kids.
“They never walk into a room and take the room over. They walk in humble, with empathy and with passion. They have a natural and understated way about them.”
They are able to make the kids feel comfortable, which is so important because then the family has a happy memory after a life-altering loss, Butt said.
One such family is Steve and Wendy Beauchamp’s.
Their middle daughter Tessa was an amazing high school athlete at Holy Cross in Surrey who died from a rare form of brain cancer in 2012, just before her 19th birthday, after a long and painful battle.
Her favourite hockey player was Daniel. Not Daniel and Henrik, just Daniel. She felt Henrik got more attention since he was the Canucks’ captain, and Daniel became her guy. She was bed-ridden, hadn’t even sat up for a week, and only had three or four more days before cancer finally defeated the warrior she was.
“When he came to visit her at Canuck Place Tessa was near the end,” Steve Beauchamp said. “She didn’t have a lot of energy, she wasn’t awake much.
“But when Daniel walked into the room, it was the first time she sat up in bed in a week. Her eyes just lit up.
“It’s something that will stay with me, will stay with all of us, forever.”
You’re here to see me? Tessa said to Daniel. She beamed. She hadn’t smiled for a long time. She couldn’t believe he was interested in her, what position did she play in basketball, why did she like him better than…