Farewell, Saku

Photo: AllHabs (photo uncredited)

Photo: AllHabs (photo uncredited)

39-year old former captain of the Montreal Canadiens – Saku Koivu has announced his retirement from the National Hockey League early Wednesday.

Koivu was selected 21st overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. A draft which saw players like Saku Koivu, Jason Arnott, Paul Kariya, Chris Pronger, Darcy Tucker among others enter the National Hockey League.

 

 

“Looking back at my 22 years of pro hockey first in Finland and then in the NHL I feel truly blessed and fulfilled. I have been contemplating retirement for quite some time and am very confident in my decision at this time and place.

Making it in hockey is not only about talent and hard work on the part of the athlete. You cannot do it alone no matter how determined you are. I am grateful to so many people along the way that have facilitated and made my career possible.” – Saku Koivu

Of his 1,124 career NHL games — Saku spent approximately seventy percent of it in a Canadiens sweater. Since his first season in 1995-96, Koivu had nine 50+ point seasons out of an 18-season career total. Saku recorded a total 225 goals, 577 assists for 832 points placing him tenth all-time in Canadiens franchise scoring. In 1999 when given the “C”, Koivu became the first European-born captain in Montreal Canadiens franchise history. His captaincy lasted until his departure for Anaheim in 2009, tying him for having the longest serving captain in franchise history alongside Jean Beliveau.

“I want to thank Serge Savard, the late JC Tremblay and the Montreal Canadiens organization for drafting me, believing in me and providing a wonderful place to begin my NHL journey. I also would like to extend special thanks to the Molson family, George Gillett and his family, Bob Gainey and Pierre Boivin. Thank you to my former teammates, coaches and the Montreal Canadiens staff.

I feel I was truly lucky to have a chance to play for the legendary Canadiens for so many years and serve as captain, and share that great honor with many truly legendary captains from before my time.

My time in Montreal was special beyond playing hockey. Thank you to the fans and lovely people of Montreal for your support and love, and for providing my family and me with wonderful memories that we will always cherish as well as the immense support during my illness. Thank you with all my heart to Dr. and Mrs. David Mulder and Dr. and Mrs. Blair Whittemore and the staff at Montreal General Hospital for saving my life.” – Saku Koivu

In 2001, Koivu was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, causing him to only play three games during the 2001-02 campaign. Upon his remarkable return from the battle with the cancer, he returned to an eight minute standing ovation by fans in the Molson Centre (now known as the Bell Centre). Knee problems in the 2003-04 season caused Koivu to miss thirteen games and he has lost partial vision due to a high stick from Justin Williams in 2006. Koivu received much criticism from the Quebec media during his career in Montreal due to his limited ability to speak French and his hesitation to use his broken French in public.

Quotes on the retirement of Saku Koivu:

“Saku Koivu is a MAN among men. He was an inspiration, a mentor, a friend, and an unbelievable competitor. He showed me what it meant to be a professional in a City that didn’t expect anything less than Excellence. He set the bar high both on and off the ice and truly showed the world what the word “courage” meant. Saku is truly one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. I am grateful to have called a teammate.” – 6 year teammate Sheldon Souray.

“Congratulations to Saku Koivu for a great career! Thank you for the memories you gave to our Fans.” – Montreal Canadiens Co-Owner Geoff Molson.

“Congratulations to Saku Koivu on a great career in the NHL as well as internationally. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many!” – Ottawa Senators Official Twitter.

“Congratulations to Saku Koivu on a decorated and inspiring 18-year NHL career.” – Columbus Blue Jackets Official Twitter.

“Congrats to Saku Koivu on an inspirational career. Proud to have played alongside such a class act, glad to call him a friend.” – 3 year teammate George Parros.

Thank-you Mr. Saku Antero Koivu for an amazing 10-years of Captaincy, 14 years in Montreal and 18 seasons of hockey. You are an inspiration to many and your legacy left in the hearts of many will never be forgotten. Best wishes from All About The Habs on your retirement. Let us take a look at Saku Koivu’s complete professional hockey career:

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

 

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