The Montreal Canadiens will pay tribute to one of the longest-tenured captains in franchise history later next month, as Saku Koivu will be honored in a pregame ceremony.
Scheduled to take place on Dec. 18, the ceremony will salute Montreal’s first European-born captain; Koivu also shares the record for most seasons wearing the “C” — 10 — tied with Hockey Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau.
Koivu is famously regarded in Montreal for his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma during the 2001-02 campaign, in which he beat the illness to return for the Habs’ 80th game of the season — prompting this response:
More, from NHL.com:
Koivu’s return to play in the 80th game of the 2001-02 regular season, a 4-3 Canadiens win against the Ottawa Senators that clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, remains one of the most emotional moments in team history. The fans serenaded Koivu with chants of “Saku! Saku! Saku!” during an eight-minute standing ovation that began before he hit the ice, picked up steam when he removed his helmet to expose his stubbly hair for the national anthem, continued through the singing of O Canada and ended only after Koivu implored referee Dan Marouelli to drop the puck for the opening faceoff.
And that illness exposed the kindness and generosity of Koivu. The foundation bearing his name he began shortly after his diagnosis spearheaded a fundraising campaign to raise $8 million to purchase a PET scanner for the Montreal General Hospital, a machine Koivu needed when he was first diagnosed but which the city he had adopted as his second home did not have.
Koivu, who retired following last season, spent 13 years in Montreal, playing in nearly 800 games while winning the Bill Masterton (in 2001-02) and King Clancy (2006-07) awards.