The end of an era came about on Wednesday
afternoon, as it was announced that Saku Koivu, the 3rd longest tenured captain
in franchise history in terms of games captained, had signed in Anaheim.
The contract is for 1 year and $3.25 million, significantly less than the
rumoured terms he was seeking when free agency opened last week. He leaves
the Canadiens as one of the most recognizable faces in the recent history of the
Since the day he was drafted, it always seems as if there’s been a dark
cloud hanging over Koivu. His draft announcement was immediately followed
by several boos, and it seemed at times that he could do no right, even today.
Fortunately, perception isn’t always reality, as you cannot deny what Saku did
accomplish, on and off the ice.
Sure, Koivu wasn’t the most talented player on the ice most of the time, but he
was almost always one of the hardest working. He had numerous setbacks due
to injuries and illness, but still managed to crack the top-10 in franchise
scoring, a feat that will take a very long time before we see it happen again.
He was the model of consistency, never flashy, but he was always at the top of
the team leaderboard when all was said and done. Come the playoffs, you
could always count on him to step up his game, and that’s all you can ask.
Off the ice, he was a pillar in the community, and his foundation is known
throughout the world. His
return from cancer is my proudest moment as a fan; I still get chills when I
see the clips. He battled back from injuries faster than expected, he
simply defied the odds. Despite what was said in recent years, many
players rave about the type of person and the type of leader Koivu was in the
locker room, a consummate pro.
Yet for some, it wasn’t good enough. For those of you who feel this way,
why? It can’t be a language reason, speaking a language doesn’t
help/hinder your play on the ice. Sure, he didn’t win a Cup, but the
rosters that the Habs had during some of those years may have had some
difficulty taking out last year’s version of the Hamilton Bulldogs. On the
ice, he played to the best of his abilities and deserves to be considered as one
of the better players in franchise history. (There have been a lot of
them, but his name deserves to be part of the discussion). Rather than
dwell on the negatives which are few and far between, celebrate what he did
bring to the table for so long, representing the team and the city as well as he
did for so many years.
So what next? I’m young enough to say that Koivu’s really the only captain
I’ve ever known and seen for the Habs. It’s the dawn of a new era, which
is exciting and disappointing at the same time. To be honest, I don’t
think this has really hit home quite yet; deep down, part of me still expects to
see #11 introduced at the home opener and only then will the realization
of his departure actually sink in. The saying goes, "You don’t know what
you’ve got ’till it’s gone." Sadly, we’re about to find out.
Näkemiin, Saku. Tulemme kaipaamaan teitä. (Goodbye Saku. We
will miss you).