Saku Koivu

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Saku Koivu
Sakukoivu halifax2008.png
Born(1974-11-23) November 23, 1974 (age 39)
Turku, FIN
Height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight181 lb (82 kg; 12 st 13 lb)
Played forTPS
Montreal Canadiens
Anaheim Ducks
National team Finland
NHL Draft21st overall, 1993
Montreal Canadiens
Playing career1992–2014
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Saku Koivu
Sakukoivu halifax2008.png
Born(1974-11-23) November 23, 1974 (age 39)
Turku, FIN
Height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight181 lb (82 kg; 12 st 13 lb)
Played forTPS
Montreal Canadiens
Anaheim Ducks
National team Finland
NHL Draft21st overall, 1993
Montreal Canadiens
Playing career1992–2014

Saku Antero Koivu (pronounced [ˈkoiʋu]; born November 23, 1974) is a retired Finnish professional ice hockey player in the National Hockey League (NHL). He began his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens in 1995–96 after three seasons with TPS of the Finnish SM-liiga. Koivu served as the Canadiens' captain for ten of his fourteen years with the club, which makes his the longest captaincy tenure in team history tied with Jean Béliveau. Koivu was the first European to captain the Montreal Canadiens.

Playing career[edit]

TPS (SM-liiga)[edit]

Saku started his professional ice hockey career playing for TPS in the Finnish SM-liiga, beginning in 1992–93. He posted 10 points in his rookie season, including 5 points in the playoffs to help TPS to a Kanada-malja championship. After improving to 53 points the following season, he put up a league-high 73 points in 1994–95. In addition to earning the Veli-Pekka Ketola trophy as league scoring champion, Koivu was awarded the Kultainen kypärä award as the players' choice for the best player and the Lasse Oksanen trophy as league MVP. He went on to record 17 points in 13 post-season games that year to earn the Jari Kurri trophy as playoff MVP and win his second Kanada-malja trophy in three years with TPS.

Koivu would return to the TPS squad during the 2004–2005 NHL lockout, scoring 8 goals and 8 assists in 20 games.

Montreal Canadiens[edit]

Koivu was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, following his rookie season in the SM-liiga, as their first-round selection (21st overall). After two more seasons with TPS, Koivu moved to North America for the 1995–96 season to join the Canadiens. In his first year, Koivu ranked 4th in scoring amongst NHL rookies with 45 points in 82 games. The following season, Koivu was among the NHL leading scorers (13 goals, 25 assists and 38 points) before suffering a knee injury on December 7, 1996, in a game against Chicago Blackhawks. He missed 32 games that season but returned to finish with 56 points in 50 games.

The next two seasons, Koivu continued to miss time with various leg injuries; however, in each year, he managed to play in more than 60 regular season games, scoring 57 and 44 points in 1997–98 and 1998–99 respectively. With the departure of team captain Vincent Damphousse in 1998–99, Koivu was named the 27th captain for the Canadiens on September 30, 1999.[1] He also became the first European-born captain in team history.[2] His first season as captain, however, was cut short due to a dislocated shoulder that took him off the ice for 40 games. After returning, he suffered another knee injury, resulting in a shortened 24-game season, in which Koivu recorded 21 points. The next season, in 2000–01, Koivu sat out another 28 games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, limiting him to 47 points.

After six seasons in the NHL, Koivu was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma, a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.[3] on September 6, 2001, and missed nearly the entire 2001–02 season. Koivu was on his way back from Finland with Canadiens teammate Brian Savage, who said he looked pale. He was suffering serious pains in stomach and vomiting and went to see the Canadiens' physician David Mulder, who, after several tests discovered the cancer.[4] Koivu received large numbers of get-well e-mails and letters from fans[5] and was also in touch with Mario Lemieux, and John Cullen; hockey centers who had beaten cancer and made successful returns to the NHL.

Koivu being escorted to the penalty box by two referees during his career with the Montreal Canadiens.

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 Centre ice for the first time on April 9, 2002, in the team's 80th game of the season.[6] Koivu helped the team to gain a playoff spot and they went on to beat the top-seeded Boston Bruins in six games. 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 2002–03 by scoring what was then a career best 71 points (21 goals, 50 assists).

Koivu suffered further knee problems in 2003–04 and was forced to miss 13 games. 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 Canadiens teammate Craig Rivet. When NHL play resumed in 2005–06, Koivu returned to the Canadiens to tally 62 points in 72 games. On April 26, 2006, however, 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 but instead struck him in the eye.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] He has since opted to wear a larger style of visor than he had previously worn.

Koivu's play the next season demonstrated that he could still complement his linemates with seemingly no adverse impact to his performance.[10] He reached the 500-point mark for his NHL career on January 9, 2007, in a game in which the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 4–2. With 2:47 remaining in regulation, Koivu fed Michael Ryder with a pass across the slot for a power-play goal prompting a standing ovation for Koivu from the sellout crowd of 21,273 in Montreal. He went on to score 22 goals and 53 assists in 81 games, totaling 75 points, to surpass his previous career-high. 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 was not present. Waiting until the end of the season, Koivu underwent further surgery to his eye and also tried a contact lens design to counteract the cataract's effects.[11]

Early in the 2007–08 season in October, Koivu was criticized by 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 apprehensive about using it in public.[12] He replied to Bertrand's remarks that he is not perfect, and jokingly mentioned that he speaks French to his wife during intimate moments.[13] Koivu introduced his team in the next pre-game video with the phrase "Ici Saku Koivu, voici mon équipe" ("Saku Koivu here, this is my team").[12] Later that season, in's March 2008 edition of Impact! Magazine, Brian Compton listed the 10 best captains of all-time since Steve Yzerman was first named captain of the Detroit Red Wings in 1986; Koivu was included in the article in the 10th place, behind the likes of Mark Messier and Mario Lemieux.[14] He finished the season with 56 points. In the subsequent 2008 playoffs, Koivu missed a few games with a broken foot. Nevertheless, he contributed 9 points in 7 games.

Koivu faces off with Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks in 2009.

On October 18, 2008, Koivu moved up to seventh 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.[15] Koivu reached another milestone with his 600th career point the following game against the Florida Panthers on October 20, 2008.[16]

Anaheim Ducks[edit]

Upon the conclusion of the 2008–09 season, Koivu tied Jean Béliveau as the longest serving captain in team history, having held the position for ten years. Koivu's tenure ended a ten-year period from 1989 to 1999, in which six Canadien team captains were traded away. Becoming an unrestricted free agent in the off-season, Koivu and the Canadiens parted ways after fourteen years. On July 8, 2009, he signed a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks worth $3.25 million, playing alongside countryman Teemu Selänne.[2] Koivu was named an alternate captain of the Ducks before the 2009–10 season began.

Following the 2009–10 season, Koivu re-signed with the Ducks for two more seasons. Koivu continued to serve as an alternate captain for the Ducks, along with fellow Finn Teemu Selänne.

On January 22, 2011, Koivu made his first return to Montreal, as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, and was welcomed by a standing ovation.[17]

On March 12, 2012, Koivu played in his 1000th career game.

On October 24, 2013, Koivu returned to Montreal for a second time as a Duck, and was once again welcomed by a standing ovation in what would be his last game at the Bell Centre.[18]

In the 2013-14 season Koivu appeared in 65 regular season games while recording a solid 29 points (11 G, 18 A). On June 19, 2014, the Ducks announced that they would not be offering Koivu a contract for the 2014-15 season, making him a free agent.[19]

On September 10, 2014, Koivu announced his retirement from the NHL after 18 seasons in the league.[20]

International play[edit]

Medal record
Men's ice hockey
Competitor for  Finland
Olympic Games
Bronze1994 Lillehammer
Bronze1998 Nagano
Silver2006 Turin
Bronze2010 Vancouver
World Championships
Silver1994 Italy
Gold1995 Sweden
Silver1999 Norway
Bronze2008 Canada
World Cup
Silver2004 World Cup of Hockey

Koivu has represented Finland on several occasions and was 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."[21]

Koivu won a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics, and bronze medals at the 1994, 1998 and 2010 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[22]), who were all selected as tournament all-stars.

Koivu was regularly 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 many bigger events. The line plays mainly to the excellent chemistry Koivu and Selänne seem to have and this has 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 speculation about Koivu being traded to Anaheim. This finally became true a decade later when Koivu signed with Anaheim in July 2009.

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

Personal life[edit]

Koivu was born to Jukka and Tuire Koivu[23] on November 23, 1974, in Turku, Finland. His younger brother Mikko is a forward for the Minnesota Wild and is the team's current captain. Koivu and his wife Hanna have two children, a daughter, Ilona (b. 2004) and a son, Aatos (b. 2006). In 2008, Koivu was featured in the Simple Plan music video for the song Save You, which was originally written for the lead singer's brother. The music video features many cancer survivors such as Koivu.

Awards and honors[edit]




Career statistics[edit]

Regular season and playoffs[edit]

  Regular season Playoffs
1995–96Montreal CanadiensNHL822025454063148
1996–97Montreal CanadiensNHL5017395638513410
1997–98Montreal CanadiensNHL691443574862352
1998–99Montreal CanadiensNHL6514304438
1999–00Montreal CanadiensNHL243182114
2000–01Montreal CanadiensNHL5417304740
2001–02Montreal CanadiensNHL302201246104
2002–03Montreal CanadiensNHL8221507172
2003–04Montreal CanadiensNHL681441555211381110
2005–06Montreal CanadiensNHL721745627030222
2006–07Montreal CanadiensNHL8122537574
2007–08Montreal CanadiensNHL771640569373694
2008–09Montreal CanadiensNHL651634504440332
2009–10Anaheim DucksNHL7119335236
2010–11Anaheim DucksNHL751530453661676
2011–12Anaheim DucksNHL7411273850
2012–13Anaheim DucksNHL47819271871236
2013–14Anaheim DucksNHL6511182946130118
NHL totals11242555778328097918415960
Liiga totals15861921531714117223964


YearTeamEventResult GPGAPtsPIM
Junior totals207192636
Senior totals8930649478

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Montreal Canadiens:100 Years of Glory, D’Arcy Jenish, p.299, Published in Canada by Doubleday, 2009, ISBN 978-0-385-66325-0
  2. ^ a b "Au revoir, Montreal: Koivu finds new home with Ducks". The Sports Network. July 8, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Koivu winner in fight against cancer". The Orange County Register. October 29, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2010. 
  4. ^ Fisher, Red (September 6, 2001). "Ailment sidelines Koivu for year". Montreal Gazette. Archived from the original on December 17, 2001. 
  5. ^ "Koivu vs. cancer". ESPN Magazine. March 20, 2002. Retrieved July 10, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Big night starts with Koivu, ends with playoffs". ESPN. April 9, 2002. Retrieved July 10, 2008. 
  7. ^ "CBC Sports Online: NHL Playoffs 2006". CBC News. April 26, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2008. 
  8. ^ "Williams remorseful, contacts Koivu". The Sports Network. April 27, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2008. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Koivu undergoes successful eye surgery". The Sports Network. May 1, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2008. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Canadiens' Koivu cautious over eye injury". CBC News. September 5, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Koivu undergoes further treatment". The Sports Network. June 5, 2007. Retrieved July 10, 2008. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b "NHL notes: Lawyer irked by Koivu’s English-only intro". October 31, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Koivu responds to Nationalist Lawyer". The Sports Network. November 1, 2007. Retrieved July 10, 2008. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Impact! Magazine- March issue". National Hockey League. March 1, 2008. Retrieved March 2, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Canadiens 4, Coyotes 1". CBS Sports. October 18, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Bouillon's go-ahead goal extends Canadiens winning streak to 5". CBS Sports. October 20, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Bell Centre greets Koivu with long standing ovation". Canada: CBC. 
  18. ^ "Stubbs: A second Montreal homecoming for Ducks’ Koivu". The Montreal Gazette. October 23, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Anaheim Ducks: Murray said he spoke to Koivu, Hiller and Winnik and informed them the team will not offer them contracts this offseason.". Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  20. ^ "Saku Koivu retires after 18 seasons". ESPN. Associated Press. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "Koivu won't replace Ville Peltonen as captain". (in Finnish). May 6, 2008. Retrieved May 6, 2008. 
  22. ^ "Finnish led by Koivu, Lehtinen and Peltonen". IIHF. July 1, 2008. Retrieved July 10, 2008. [dead link]
  23. ^ Wigge, Larry. "Koivu brothers doing Finland proud". National Hockey League. Retrieved October 25, 2008. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Vincent Damphousse
Montreal Canadiens captain
Succeeded by
Brian Gionta
Preceded by
Esa Keskinen
Winner of the Kultainen kypärä
Succeeded by
Juha Riihijärvi
Preceded by
Adam Graves
Winner of the Bill Masterton Trophy
Succeeded by
Steve Yzerman
Preceded by
Olaf Kolzig
Winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy
Succeeded by
Vincent Lecavalier
Preceded by
David Wilkie
Montreal Canadiens first round draft pick
Succeeded by
Brad Brown
Preceded by
Ari Sulander
Winner of the Jari Kurri trophy
Succeeded by
Petri Varis
Preceded by
Esa Keskinen
Winner of the Veli-Pekka Ketola trophy
Succeeded by
Juha Riihijärvi
Preceded by
Teemu Selänne
Winner of the President's trophy
Succeeded by
Esa Tikkanen