There should no doubt in any one’s mind that Saku Koivu is one of the classiest guys in the NHL, and one of the ultimate leaders.
With the news this week that he’s signed with the Anaheim Ducks, I thought it would be good to have one final look back at his career with the Montreal Canadiens.
So below you will find the top 10 Saku Koivu moments as a Montreal Canadien (at least, the best ones I could find on Youtube).
10. Koivu had a tendency to show up in big games. When a goal was needed, or someone was counted on in the shootout, it was Koivu more often than not that stepped up to the plate. And he probably did it more times against the Boston Bruins than any other team in the NHL (by virtue of them playing against one another so often).
Two goals against Bruins
Shootout winner against Boston
9. One of the greatest things about Koivu was despite his small stature, he wouldn’t shy away from body contact. In fact, he would often initiate it, laying out competitors with check after check. Below, you’ll see two examples of how he destroyed his competitors, one against Denis Wideman of the Bruins, and the other against Patrick Elias of the New Jersey Devils.
8. Feb. 19, 2008 ended up being a historic day for the Canadiens, but it started out pretty bad. They were involved in a game against the New York Rangers, and found themselves down 5-0 only 25 minutes into the game, despite the shots being pretty even at this point. Cue the greatest comeback in NHL history, as the Habs scored five goals in the next 30 minutes to tie the game. Overtime solved nothing, so they had to go to a shootout, facing Henrik Lundqvist, the greatest shootout goalie in the history of the game. Only one goal in the shootout to win the game for the Habs, and it was scored by Saku Koivu. It’s only fitting that he would play a pivotal role in such a historic game.
7. Koivu hasn’t won a ton of awards in his time with the Canadiens, but one that he did get was the King Clancy award in 2007. According to Wikipedia, it’s given to the player “who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.” That definitely describes Koivu perfectly. The award was given to him for his work with Montreal hospitals and raising money to help battle cancer.
6. One of the reasons why Koivu was such a good leader was the fact that, despite his size, he would stick up for his teammates. In this example, Scott Gomez elbows Sergei Kostitsyn after the whistle. Koivu drops the gloves with the New York Ranger. It’s not the greatest fight, but it just goes to prove that Koivu was always willing to step up to the plate to defend his teammates.
5. In 1996, Koivu participated in his first ever NHL playoffs as a rookie. The Habs were playing the New York Rangers, and even though the Habs lost in six games in the first round, Koivu started to show potential of being a leader. After Mark Messier hit the post on a breakaway, Koivu slapped a goal for his first NHL playoff goal. Koivu ended up with 16 goals and 48 points in 54 games as a Hab.
4. There’s nothing quite like scoring your first NHL goal. For Koivu, it came in a game against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 23, 1995. Watching the video, you see his linemates are Valeri Bure and Oleg Petrov. A really small line, but it just goes to show you the type of linemates Koivu played with for so long (mostly underachievers). Although in today’s NHL, they’d probably dominate with all the open ice.
3. Having the respect of others is an example of how great a leader another person is. Many NHL players have said nothing but good things about Koivu over the years, whether it be a teammate, former teammate or an opponent. So have many people away from the ice. In this five-minute special on Koivu, you hear from a couple of people who talk about how great a person he is.
2. Although he was always visible in the community, after Koivu was diagnosed with cancer, he created a foundation to help people who may be going through the same thing and helping the city of Montreal fundraise enough money to buy a CT scanner. So he created the Saku Koivu Foundation. The scanner was purchased, but the foundation didn’t stop. It now fundraises for a trauma centre, community outreach and enhancement of the scanner. For all the things Koivu did on the ice, this is probably his greatest legacy in Montreal.
1. Saku Koivu’s first game back after battling cancer. In 2002, Koivu was diagnosed with cancer and missed most of the season. He came back with three games left before the playoffs. Koviu’s first game back was against the Ottawa Senators on April 9, 2002. In a very classy move, the Sens stood at the blueline and tapped their sticks in honour of Koivu as he did his pre-game skate. The crowd gave him an eight-minute standing ovation. It was a great game, and Montreal won 4-3 on a last-minute goal. It also clinched a playoff spot for the Canadiens. It was a game that gave everybody goosebumps, and showed how tough a guy he is.