|Born||November 23, 1974 |
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Weight||181 lb (82 kg; 12 st 13 lb)|
|NHL Draft||21st overall, 1993|
Saku Koivu (born Saku Antero Koivu on November 23, 1974) is a Finnish former professional ice hockey player who played in the National Hockey League (NHL). He was the captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
Saku 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, Saku 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.
Saku would return to the TPS squad during the 2004–05 NHL lockout, scoring eight goals and eight assists in 20 games.
Saku 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, he moved to North America for the 1995–96 season to join the Canadiens.
In his first season, Saku 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, Saku 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, Saku was named the 27th captain for the Canadiens on September 30, 1999. He also became the first European-born captain in team history. His first season as captain, however, it was cut short due to a dislocated shoulder that took him off the ice for 40 games.
Upon returning, Saku suffered another knee injury, resulting in a shortened 24-game season, in which he recorded 21 points.
The next season, in 2000–01, Saku sat out another 28 games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, limiting him to 47 points.
After six seasons in the NHL, Saku was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma on September 6, 2001 and missed nearly the entire 2001–02 season.
Saku was on his way back from Finland with Canadiens teammate Brian Savage, who said he looked pale. He was suffering serious pains in his stomach and had vomiting. He went to see the Canadiens' physician David Mulder, who (after several tests) discovered the cancer
Saku received large numbers of get-well e-mails and letters from fans and was also in touch with Mario Lemieux and John Cullen, hockey centres who had beaten cancer and made successful returns to the NHL.
Saku was expected to be out for the season, but he made a remarkable comeback in time for the last few games. Fans gave him 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.
Saku 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, Saku 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).
Saku 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, Saku sustained a serious injury to his left eye; Hurricanes forward Justin Williams attempted to lift his stick, but instead struck him in the eye.
Saku 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.
Saku has admitted to having lost some degree of peripheral vision out of the injured eye which he will likely never regain. A small cataract developed following the retinal re-attachment surgery that was later successfully removed. He has since opted to wear a larger style of visor than he had previously worn.
Saku's play the next season demonstrated that he could still complement his linemates with seemingly no adverse impact to his performance. 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, Saku 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, Saku 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 Saku's behalf as he was not present. Waiting until the end of the season, he underwent further surgery to his eye and also tried a contact lens design to counteract the cataract's effects.
Early in the 2007–08 season in October, Saku was criticized by nationalist lawyer Guy Bertrand for not speaking French in a videotaped pre-game ceremony. Although he is fluent in English, Swedish and Finnish, Saku speaks limited French and is apprehensive 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.
Saku introduced his team in the next pre-game video with the phrase "Ici Saku Koivu, voici mon équipe" (meaning "Saku Koivu here, this is my team" in English).
Later that season, in NHL.com'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; Saku was included in the article in tenth place, behind the likes of Mark Messier and Mario Lemieux.
Saku finished the season with 56 points. In the subsequent 2008 playoffs, he missed a few games with a broken foot. Nevertheless, he contributed 9 points in 7 games.
On October 18, 2008, Saku moved up to seventh on the Canadiens' all-time assists list, surpassing Maurice "Rocket" Richard in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes; he netted one and assisted on two from newly acquired linemate Alex Tanguay when the Habs beat Coyotes 4–1.
Saku reached another milestone with his 600th career point the following game against the Florida Panthers on October 20, 2008.
Upon the conclusion of the 2008–09 season, Saku tied Jean Believeau as the longest-serving captain in team history, having held the position for ten years. His 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, he 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 Selanne. He was named an alternate captain of the Ducks before the 2009–10 season began.
Following the 2009–10 season, Saku 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, Saku made his first return to Montreal as a member of the Ducks, and was welcomed by a standing ovation.
On March 12, 2012, he played in his 1,000th career NHL game.
On October 24, 2013, Saku 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.
In the 2013–14 season, he 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 him a contract for the 2014–15 season, making him a free agent.
On September 10, 2014, Saku announced his retirement from the NHL after 18 seasons in the league.
Regular season and playoffs
|Men's ice hockey|
|Competitor for Template:Country data FIN|
|Silver||2004 World Cup of Hockey|
Saku 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.
His 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.
Saku was offered the "C" but declined, pleading, "It would only stir things up and the team has already a great captain, Ville Peltonen."
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 he lost against Canada, thus winning silver.
His 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.
Saku 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.
Saku 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 Saku and Selänne seem to have and this has also affected the NHL.
After the 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 Saku signed with Anaheim in July of 2009.
On February 23, 2006, Saku was elected by his fellow Olympic competitors as a member of the Athletes' Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
- Kultainen kypärä award (Players choice for the best player) – 1995
- Jari Kurri trophy (Best player in playoffs) – 1995
- Lasse Oksanen trophy (Most valuable player) – 1995
- Veli-Pekka Ketola trophy (Most points in regular season) – 1995
- President's Trophy – 1999
- Voted to the NHL All-Star Game by the fans – 1998, 2003 (did not play due to injury)
- Bill Masterton Trophy – 2002
- King Clancy Memorial Trophy – 2007
- First ever European-born captain of the Montreal Canadiens – 1999–2009
- Longest-serving captain in Canadiens history (tied with Jean Béliveau)
- 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
- Nagano 1998 Winter Olympics - Top scorer (Tied with Teemu Selänne)
- Turin 2006 Winter Olympics – Tournament All-Star
- Turin 2006 Winter Olympics – Top scorer (Tied with Teemu Selänne)
- Captain of Team Finland – 1998–2010
Saku and his wife Hanna have two children: a daughter, Ilona (born in 2004) and a son, Aatos (born in 2006).
In 2008, he was featured in the Montreal-based band Simple Plan's music video for their song "Save You."
The song was written about Simple Plan frontman Pierre Bouvier's brother's battle with cancer; Saku is one of several cancer survivors featured in the video.