MONTREAL, QC.– On Saturday night, former Canadiens captain Saku Koivu returns to the Bell Centre for the first time after being signed by the Anaheim Ducks on July 8, 2009. He will undoubtedly be greeted by a well-deserved ovation. To further show their appreciation, fans have taken to Facebook to ensure that Koivu is voted as the first star of the game.
But where did it all start? What are some of the hi-lights and issues that marked Koivu’s 13-year tenure with the Habs?
On June 9, 1993 at the Montreal Forum, the Canadiens hoisted their twenty-fourth Stanley Cup beating the Los Angeles Kings in five games. Kirk Muller scored the series-winning goal with Patrick Roy being named the Con Symthe Trophy winner as the playoff’s most valuable player.
Just over two weeks later on June 26 at the Colisee in Quebec City, a new era in Canadiens history began. With the twenty-first pick overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Montreal selected Saku Koivu from TPS Turku in Finland. The most memorable selection this draft (for all the wrong reasons) was when the Ottawa Senators chose Alexandre Daigle with the first pick overall.
Looking back, you would be hard pressed to find a better selection than Koivu among the 20 players taken before him with the possible exception of Chris Pronger. Nick Stajdduhar (Oilers), Jesper Mattsson (Flames) and Landon Wilson (Maple Leafs) all went ahead of Koivu.
Koivu was not surrounded with an abundance of talent on the roster nor in management. A quick look at the winning percentages of Canadiens head coaches during Koivu’s stay offers insight into the caliber of the teams he played for:
Mario Tremblay .273
Alain Vigneault .400
Michel Therrien .500
Claude Julien .364
Guy Carbonneau .417
Nonetheless the Habs center managed to score 641 points in 792 regular season games. He added 48 points in 54 playoff games. Koivu is seventh on the Canadiens all-time list of assists.
What distinguishes Koivu is his ability to make every player on the ice with him better while consistently giving maximum effort on every shift.
Koivu was named the twenty-seventh captain of the Canadiens on September 30, 1999. Next to Jean Beliveau, he is the longest serving captain in team history. Koivu had to endure something never experienced by Beliveau, a portion of the fan base who were not ready to accept the team’s first European captain and a hostile media who had their own agenda.
Yet, he exemplified class in every interaction.
Koivu received the Bill Masterton Trophy, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and was twice selected as an NHL All-Star. Internationally, he won a World Championship and Olympic medals playing for Team Finland.
In 2002, Koivu provided inspiration to thousands of people after battling and overcoming a form of cancer called Burkitt’s lymphoma. Courageously, in April of that year, he returned to lead his team to a playoff spot and a first-round upset of the top-seeded Boston Bruins. Koivu’s positive influence extended beyond the arena to the community where his substantial charity work has contributed millions of dollars to medical facilities in Montreal through his foundation.
All Habs team coverage on Saku Koivu’s return to Montreal
With that brief primer you are now ready to read three articles from our writers from different perspectives. We would love to receive your comments.
- You are invited to take sides as two of our writers, Laura and Steve, debate the significance of Saku Koivu to the Montreal Canadiens in an All Habs Faceoff. Read “Praise for Saku Koivu: Deserved or Hype.”
- Rookie and Czechtacular have collaborated to prepare a piece titled “In Our Own Words.”
- We also want to know, “What is your most memorable Saku Koivu moment?” Read my thoughts I relate a favorite memory.
Here’s some fun odds from Bodog.com regarding Saturday’s game and Koivu’s return to the Bell Centre. (hat-tip to Mathew Ross, Game Points)
Will Saku Koivu (ANA) score a goal?
Yes +325 ( or 13/4)
No -450 ( or 2/9)
Will Saku Koivu (ANA) record a point?
Yes +140 (or 7/5)
No -170 (or 10/17)
Will Saku Koivu (ANA) be the first star of the Game?
Yes -150 (or 2/3)
No +110 (or 11/10)
According the the folks at Bodog, Koivu is favored to be named top star of the game, but not to score a goal or record a point.
(photo by Getty)
About the Author (Author Profile)Rick is the Editor-in-Chief, lead contributor, and owner of the All Habs network of websites. His mission is to build a community of Canadiens fans who are informed, engaged and connected. He is the vision behind all four sites within the network - All Habs, Habs Tweetup, We Are Canadiens, and The Montreal Forum - and is responsible for the design and layout of each. In concert with the strong belief that "Habs fans are everywhere!", Rick is pleased that people use All Habs as a conduit to find and connect with other Habs fans worldwide. He is also proud that Habs Tweetups have allowed fans to meet in person and develop long lasting friendships.
Sites That Link to this Post
- All Habs Faceoff: Praise for Saku Koivu – Deserved or Hyped? | All Habs | January 21, 2011
- Ducks Daily Blog | An Anaheim Ducks Blog | January 22, 2011