Saku Koivu

Saku Koivu
Born (1974-11-23) November 23, 1974
Turku, Finland
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 181 lb (82 kg; 12 st 13 lb)
Position Center
Shot Left
Played for TPS
Montreal Canadiens
Anaheim Ducks
National team  Finland
NHL Draft 21st overall, 1993
Montreal Canadiens
Playing career 19922014

Saku Antero Koivu (pronounced [ˈkoiʋu]; born November 23, 1974) is a Finnish former professional ice hockey player who played 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 14 years with the club, which makes him the longest captaincy tenure in team history, tied with Jean Béliveau. Koivu was the first European player to captain the Montreal Canadiens.

Playing career

TPS (SM-liiga)

Koivu began his professional ice hockey career playing for TPS in the Finnish SM-liiga, beginning in 1992–93. He posted ten points in his rookie season, including five 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 2004–05 NHL lockout, scoring eight goals and eight assists in 20 games.

Montreal Canadiens

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 season, Koivu ranked fourth in scoring amongst NHL rookies with 45 points in 82 games. The following season, he was amongst the NHL leading scorers (13 goals and 25 assists for 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. In each year, however, 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. Upon 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 centres 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 and 50 assists).

Koivu suffered further knee problems in 2003–04 and was forced to miss 13 games. During the 2004–05 NHL lockout, he 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. He 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] He replied to Bertrand's remarks that he is not perfect, and jokingly mentioned that he speaks French to his wife during intimate moments.[12] 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").[11] Later that season, in's March 2008 edition of Impact! Magazine, Brian Compton listed the ten 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 tenth place, behind the likes of Mark Messier and Mario Lemieux.[13] 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 assists list, surpassing 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.[14] Koivu reached another milestone with his 600th career point the following game against the Florida Panthers on October 20, 2008.[15]

Anaheim Ducks

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 had previously been traded away. Becoming an unrestricted free agent in the off-season, Koivu and the Canadiens parted ways after 14 years, where on July 8, 2009, he signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks, playing alongside countryman and fellow NHL veteran 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. He continued to serve as an alternate captain for the Ducks alongside Selänne.

On January 22, 2011, during the 2010–11 season, Koivu made his first return to Montreal as a member of the Ducks, and was welcomed by a standing ovation.[16]

On March 12, 2012, Koivu played in his 1,000th career NHL 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.[17] In the 2013–14 season, Koivu appeared in 65 regular season games while recording 29 points (11 goals and 18 assists). 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.[18]

On September 10, 2014, Koivu announced his retirement from the NHL after 18 seasons in the League.[19]

International play

Medal record
Men's ice hockey
Representing  Finland
Olympic Games
2006 Turin
1994 Lillehammer
1998 Nagano
2010 Vancouver
World Championships
1995 Sweden
1994 Italy
1999 Norway
2008 Canada
World Cup
2004 World Cup of Hockey

Koivu has represented Finland on several occasions and was the national team's captain; he was named successor of 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—for the 2008 IIHF World Championship—when he joined the team in the middle of the tournament. He was offered the "C" but declined, pleading, "It would only stir things up and the team has already a great captain, Ville Peltonen."[20]

Koivu won a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics and bronze medals at the 1994, 1998 and 2010 Olympics Winter Olympics. He was also on the 2004 World Cup team, which advanced to the final but lost against Canada, thus winning silver.

Koivu's most renowned achievement with Finland is as first line centre in the 1995 1995 IIHF World Championship, where the Finns won their first IIHF men's gold medal. Koivu played in the first line with Jere Lehtinen and Ville Peltonen, the "Huey, Dewey and Louie" line,[21] 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 International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Personal life

Koivu was born to Jukka and Tuire Koivu[22] on November 23, 1974, in Turku. His younger brother Mikko is also an ice hockey player, a forward for the Minnesota Wild who also serves as the team's captain. Saku Koivu and his wife Hanna have two children, a daughter, Ilona (born 2004) and a son, Aatos (born 2006).

In 2008, the Montreal-based band Simple Plan featured Koivu in its video for the song "Save You." The song was about the battle with cancer of the brother of Simple Plan frontman Pierre Bouvier. Koivu is one of several cancer survivors appearing in the video.

Awards and honors




Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

    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 11 3 2 5 2
1993–94 TPS SM-l 47 23 30 53 42 11 4 8 12 16
1994–95 TPS SM-l 45 27 47 74 73 13 7 10 17 16
1995–96 Montreal Canadiens NHL 82 20 25 45 40 6 3 1 4 8
1996–97 Montreal Canadiens NHL 50 17 39 56 38 5 1 3 4 10
1997–98 Montreal Canadiens NHL 69 14 43 57 48 6 2 3 5 2
1998–99 Montreal Canadiens NHL 65 14 30 44 38
1999–00 Montreal Canadiens NHL 24 3 18 21 14
2000–01 Montreal Canadiens NHL 54 17 30 47 40
2001–02 Montreal Canadiens NHL 3 0 2 2 0 12 4 6 10 4
2002–03 Montreal Canadiens NHL 82 21 50 71 72
2003–04 Montreal Canadiens NHL 68 14 41 55 52 11 3 8 11 10
2004–05 TPS SM-l 20 8 8 16 28 6 3 2 5 30
2005–06 Montreal Canadiens NHL 72 17 45 62 70 3 0 2 2 2
2006–07 Montreal Canadiens NHL 81 22 53 75 74
2007–08 Montreal Canadiens NHL 77 16 40 56 93 7 3 6 9 4
2008–09 Montreal Canadiens NHL 65 16 34 50 44 4 0 3 3 2
2009–10 Anaheim Ducks NHL 71 19 33 52 36
2010–11 Anaheim Ducks NHL 75 15 30 45 36 6 1 6 7 6
2011–12 Anaheim Ducks NHL 74 11 27 38 50
2012–13 Anaheim Ducks NHL 47 8 19 27 18 7 1 2 3 6
2013–14 Anaheim Ducks NHL 65 11 18 29 46 13 0 1 1 8
NHL totals 1124 255 577 832 809 79 18 41 59 60
Liiga totals 158 61 92 153 171 41 17 22 39 64


Year Team Event Result   GP G A Pts PIM
1992 Finland EJC18 4th 6 3 5 8 18
1993 Finland WJC 5th 7 1 8 9 6
1993 Finland WC 7th 6 0 1 1 2
1994 Finland WJC 4th 7 3 6 9 12
1994 Finland OLY 3rd, bronze medalist(s) 8 4 3 7 12
1994 Finland WC 2nd, silver medalist(s) 8 5 6 11 4
1995 Finland WC 1st, gold medalist(s) 8 5 5 10 18
1996 Finland WCH QF 4 1 3 4 4
1997 Finland WC 5th 6 2 2 4 2
1998 Finland OLY 3rd, bronze medalist(s) 6 2 8 10 4
1999 Finland WC 2nd, silver medalist(s) 10 4 12 16 4
2003 Finland WC 5th 7 1 10 11 4
2004 Finland WCH 2nd, silver medalist(s) 6 3 1 4 2
2006 Finland OLY 2nd, silver medalist(s) 8 3 8 11 12
2008 Finland WC 3rd, bronze medalist(s) 6 0 3 3 4
2010 Finland OLY 3rd, bronze medalist(s) 6 0 2 2 6
Junior totals 20 7 19 26 36
Senior totals 89 30 64 94 78

See also


  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. 1 2 "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. "Koivu undergoes successful eye surgery". The Sports Network. May 1, 2006. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  9. "Canadiens' Koivu cautious over eye injury". CBC News. September 5, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  10. "Koivu undergoes further treatment". The Sports Network. June 5, 2007. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  11. 1 2 "NHL notes: Lawyer irked by Koivu's English-only intro". October 31, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  12. "Koivu responds to Nationalist Lawyer". The Sports Network. November 1, 2007. Archived from the original on January 3, 2008. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  13. "Impact! Magazine- March issue". National Hockey League. March 1, 2008. Retrieved March 2, 2008.
  14. "Canadiens 4, Coyotes 1". CBS Sports. October 18, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  15. "Bouillon's go-ahead goal extends Canadiens winning streak to 5". CBS Sports. October 20, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  16. "Bell Centre greets Koivu with long standing ovation". Canada: CBC.
  17. "Stubbs: A second Montreal homecoming for Ducks' Koivu". The Montreal Gazette. October 23, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  18. "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.
  19. "Saku Koivu retires after 18 seasons". ESPN. Associated Press. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  20. "Koivu won't replace Ville Peltonen as captain". (in Finnish). May 6, 2008. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  21. "Finnish led by Koivu, Lehtinen and Peltonen". IIHF. July 1, 2008. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  22. Wigge, Larry. "Koivu brothers doing Finland proud". National Hockey League. Retrieved October 25, 2008.
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