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Saku Koivu

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Saku Koivu
Sakukoivu halifax2008
Position Centre
Shoots Left
Height
Weight
5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
198 lb (90 kg)
NHL Team Montreal Canadiens
Nationality Finland
Born 23 November 1974 (1974-11-23) (age 42),
Turku, FIN
NHL Draft 21st overall, 1993
Montreal Canadiens
Pro Career 1992 – present

Saku Antero Koivu (born 23 November 1974, in Turku, Finland) is a Finnish professional player currently playing for the Montreal Canadiens as the team captain. His brother, Mikko Koivu, is also a captain for the Minnesota Wild.

Playing career

SM-liiga and NHL

Saku started his professional ice hockey career playing for TPS in the Finnish SM-liiga, in the 1992–1993 season. He spent three seasons with TPS, winning two Finnish championships with the team in 1993 and 1995, and being elected Player of the Year by his fellow players in the 1994–1995 season. He was drafted by the Canadiens in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft as their first-round selection (21st overall), and moved to North America for the 1995–96 season.

In his first year, Koivu ranked 4th in scoring amongst NHL rookies. The following season Koivu was the NHL leading scorer (13 goals, 25 assists and 38 points) before suffering a knee injury on 7 December 1996, in a game against Chicago Blackhawks. He missed 32 games in that season but still had an average of scoring over a point per game (56 points in 50 games).

On 30 September 1999, Koivu was named the 27th captain of the Montreal Canadiens, and the first European-born captain in the history of the Canadiens.

After six seasons in the NHL, Koivu was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in September 2001 and missed practically the entire 2001–02 NHL season. He made an amazing recovery and was able to return for the playoffs, leading the Canadiens to an unlikely first-round upset of the number one-ranked Boston Bruins. For his courage and off-ice team leadership while undergoing cancer treatment, he was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy following the 2002 playoffs. He followed up in the 2002–03 NHL season by scoring his career best single-season point total with 71 (21 goals, 50 assists) to that date.

During the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Koivu returned to Finland to play for TPS, whose head coach at the time was his father, Jukka Koivu. He was joined in Turku by then-fellow Montreal Canadien, and close friend, Craig Rivet.

The 2006–07 was Koivu's seventh season as the Canadiens captain. His continued tenure seems to have ended a supposed curse of Habs captains. During a ten-year span from 1989 to 1999, six captains were traded away.

The 2006–07 NHL season was, for Saku Koivu, personally successful. In a game on 9 January 2007, in which the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 4–2, he registered his 500th NHL point. With 2:47 remaining, Koivu fed Michael Ryder with a pass across the slot for a power-play goal. Koivu received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 21,273 in Montreal. Koivu went on to score 22 goals and 53 assists in 81 games, totaling 75 points, making 2006–07 his best season. At the season's annual awards banquet, Koivu was announced as the winner of the King Clancy Trophy for his role in the cancer-fighting Saku Koivu Foundation. The Canadiens' team doctor, Dr. David Mulder, received the award on Koivu's behalf as he wasn't present.

In October 2007, Koivu was criticized by Quebec nationalist lawyer Guy Bertrand for not speaking French in a videotaped pre-game ceremony. Although Koivu is fluent in English, Swedish and Finnish, he speaks limited French and is shy about using it in public. He replied to Bertrand's remarks that he is not perfect, and jokingly mentioned that he speaks French to his wife during intimate moments.

In NHL.com's March 2008 edition of Impact! Magazine, Brian Compton listed 10 best captains of all-time after Steve Yzerman and Koivu was included in the article as 10th behind the likes of Mark Messier and Mario Lemieux. Later in the magazine, Koivu was characterized as an inspirative leader, who leads by example, and a courageous fighter, who has the will to overcome an obstacle such as cancer.

On 18 October 2008, Koivu moved up to number 7th on the Canadiens all-time assist list over the legendary Maurice "Rocket" Richard in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Koivu netted one and assisted on two from newly-acquired linemate Alex Tanguay when the Habs beat Coyotes 4-1.

Koivu would continue his strong performance with a goal in the following game against the Florida Panthers on 20th of October, 2008. The goal marked as his 600th career point in the NHL.

As of the conclusion of the 2008–09 season, Koivu is the longest serving captain in team history, tied with Jean Béliveau. After this season Koivu and Montreal parted ways, Koivu went on to Anaheim.

Injuries

Throughout his career, Saku Koivu has suffered various medical issues, many due to his style of play in his early NHL years.

In his sophomore year, Koivu was leading the NHL in scoring before suffering a knee injury. The next two seasons, Koivu was riddled with various leg injuries; however, in each year, he managed to play in more than 60 regular season games. During the 1999–00 NHL season, Koivu dislocated his shoulder which took him off the ice for 40 games, and had another knee injury, playing only 24 games. The next season, he sat out 28 games due to arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Koivu's latest knee problems were in 2003–04 NHL season, when he was forced to miss 13 games. Since then he has changed his style of play to a more reserved style. Koivu also missed a couple of the 2007–08 playoffs games with a broken foot.

Battle against cancer

On 6 September 2001, Koivu was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after having serious pains in stomach and vomiting. Koivu was on his way back from Finland with then-fellow Canadien Brian Savage who said he looked pale and not well at all. He went to see the Canadien's physician David Mulder, who did tests. It was later discovered that Koivu had cancer.

Koivu received large numbers of get-well e-mails and letters. He was also in touch with Mario Lemieux, John Cullen and Lance Armstrong; all athletes who had beaten cancer and returned to the top.

Koivu was expected to be out for the season but made a remarkable comeback in time for the last few games. Fans gave Koivu an eight-minute standing ovation when he skated onto the Molson Center ice for the first time on on 9 April 2002. Koivu helped the team to gain a playoff spot and they went on to beat the #1 ranked Boston Bruins in six games.


Eye injury

On 26 April 2006, during a home playoff game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Koivu sustained a serious injury to his left eye. Hurricanes forward Justin Williams attempted to lift Koivu's stick and struck him in the eye. Koivu was rushed to the hospital, where he would remain overnight and for the remainder of the playoffs. Williams attempted to contact Koivu to apologize personally, but was only able to leave him a message on his cell phone. Koivu remained out of the lineup for the rest of the series and underwent surgery to repair a detached retina during the off-season.

Koivu has admitted to having lost some degree of peripheral vision out of the injured eye which he will likely never regain. As well, a small cataract developed following the retinal re-attachment surgery that was later successfully removed; Koivu waited until the conclusion of the 2006–2007 NHL season before opting to have the surgery, and also tried a contact lens design to counteract the cataract's effects. Koivu opted to wear a larger style of visor than he had previously worn.

Koivu's play has demonstrated that he can still complement his linemates with seemingly no adverse impact to his performance. In fact, in the 2006–2007 season he was able to beat his career high 71 points with 75, making the season after his eye injury the best of his career. Koivu attributes his increased scoring this year to developing a quicker release of the puck, rather than anything to do with his eye injury or other subsequent changes to his play style thereafter. In the summer of 2007 he underwent eye surgery to improve his vision.

International play

Koivu has represented Finland on several occasions and is the national team's captain. Koivu was named the successor of a long-time captain Timo Jutila after he retired from international play in 1997. Koivu's first duty came in 1998 when the 1998 Winter Olympics took place in Nagano. He has held the post ever since, with one exception in 2008 when he joined the team in the middle of the tournament. He was offered the C letter but declined pleading "it would only stir things up and the team has already a great captain, Ville Peltonen."

Most recently, Koivu won a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics, and bronze medals at the 1994 Winter Olympics and the 1998 Winter Olympics. He was also on the 2004 World Cup team, which advanced to the final but lost against Canada, thereby winning the silver medal.

Koivu's most renowned achievement with Team Finland is as first line center in the 1995 IIHF World Championships, where Finland won its first IIHF men's gold medal. Koivu played in the first line with Jere Lehtinen and Ville Peltonen (the "Huey, Dewey, and Louie" line ), who were all selected as tournament all-stars.

Koivu was partnered with Teemu Selänne and Jere Lehtinen in a line if all three were available. The trio has been a key factor to Finland's success at bigger events. However, Koivu and Selänne have played numerous times without Lehtinen and have had great performances which have also affected the NHL; after 1999 World Championships Selänne said in an interview on a Finnish TV program: "It would be great to play with Saku" which led to rumours about Koivu being traded to Anaheim. In 2009 Koivu moved to play for Anaheim and he's played there since then.

On 23 February 2006, Koivu was elected by his fellow Olympic competitors as a member of the Athletes' Commission of the IOC.

Awards and honors

SM-liiga

NHL

International

  • Ice Hockey World Championships Tournament All-Star - 1994, 1995, 1999
  • Ice Hockey World Championships Tournament's Best Forward - 1995, 1999
  • Ice Hockey World Championships Tournament's Top scorer - 1999
  • Finnish Ice hockey player of the year - 1994, 1995
  • Turin 2006 Winter Olympics - Tournament All-Star
  • Turin 2006 Winter Olympics - Top scorer
  • Captain of Team Finland - 1998-present

Career statistics

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM +/– GP G A Pts PIM
1992–93 TPS SM-L 46 3 7 10 28 -5 11 3 2 5 2 </td>
1993–94 TPS SM-L 47 23 30 53 42 +27 11 4 8 12 16
1994–95 TPS SM-L 45 27 47 74 73 +33 13 7 10 17 16
1995–96 Montreal Canadiens NHL 82 20 25 45 40 -7 6 3 1 4 8
1996–97 Montreal Canadiens NHL 50 17 39 56 38 +7 5 1 3 4 10
1997–98 Montreal Canadiens NHL 69 14 43 57 48 +8 6 2 3 5 2
1998–99 Montreal Canadiens NHL 65 14 30 44 38 -7
1999–00 Montreal Canadiens NHL 24 3 18 21 14 +7
2000–01 Montreal Canadiens NHL 54 17 30 47 40 +2
2001–02 Montreal Canadiens NHL 3 0 2 2 0 0 12 4 6 10 4
2002–03 Montreal Canadiens NHL 82 21 50 71 72 +5
2003–04 Montreal Canadiens NHL 68 14 41 55 52 -5 11 3 8 11 10
2004–05 TPS SM-l 20 8 8 16 28 +11 6 3 2 5 30
2005–06 Montreal Canadiens NHL 72 17 45 62 70 +1 3 0 2 2 2
2006–07 Montreal Canadiens NHL 81 22 53 75 74 -21
2007–08 Montreal Canadiens NHL 77 16 40 56 93 -4 7 3 6 9 4
2008–09 Montreal Canadiens NHL 65 16 34 50 44 +4 4 0 3 3 2
NHL totals 791 191 450 641 623 -10 54 16 32 48 42
SM-L totals 158 61 92 153 171 +66 41 17 22 39 64

International play

Played for Finland in:

International statistics

Year Team Event GP G A Pts PIM
1993 Finland WC 6 0 1 1 2
1994 Finland OLY 8 4 3 7 12
1994 Finland WC 8 5 6 11 4
1995 Finland WC 8 5 5 10 18
1996 Finland WCH 4 1 3 4 4
1997 Finland WC 6 2 2 4 2
1998 Finland OLY 6 2 8 10 4
1999 Finland WC 10 4 12 16 4
2003 Finland WC 7 1 10 11 4
2004 Finland WCH 6 3 1 4 2
2006 Finland OLY 8 3 8 11 12
2008 Finland WC 6 0 3 3 4
WC totals 51 17 39 56 38
OLY totals 22 9 19 28 28
WCH totals 10 4 4 8 6
Int'l totals 83 30 62 92 72


External links

Preceded by
Vincent Damphousse
Montreal Canadiens Captains
1999 – present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Esa Keskinen
Winner of the Kultainen kypärä
1994–95
Succeeded by
Juha Riihijärvi
Preceded by
Adam Graves
Winner of the Bill Masterton Trophy
2002
Succeeded by
Steve Yzerman
Preceded by
Olaf Kolzig
Winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy
2007
Succeeded by
Vincent Lecavalier
Preceded by
Ari Sulander
Winner of the Jari Kurri trophy
1994–95
Succeeded by
Petri Varis
Preceded by
Esa Keskinen
Winner of the Veli-Pekka Ketola trophy
1994–95
Succeeded by
Juha Riihijärvi
Preceded by
Teemu Selänne
Winner of the President's trophy
1998–99
Succeeded by
Esa Tikkanen

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