Following are media excerpts from around the league regarding Saku Koivu leaving Montreal and signing with the Ducks.
Montreal Gazette Staff (July 8, 2009)– Saku Koivu was the “heart and soul of the Canadiens for 14 years.”
Dave Stubbs (Montreal Gazette – July 9, 2009)
“If you don’t believe that Saku Koivu has been larger than life in Montreal, you’ve not taken note of his multi-storey likeness on the southeast corner of the Bell Centre.
…Some day soon, the Bell Centre will quietly be stripped of the towering No. 11 on its southeast corner. But it will be a long, long time before Canadiens fans look up at that wall and not see the inspirational leader of the building’s prime tenant, a man who grew among us and touched countless lives on and off the ice.
…But Wednesday was a rib-kick loss of substance. Koivu, the very essence of the Canadiens for more than a decade, announced a move of three time zones to the California coast, about as far from Montreal as NHL geography would allow.
…Anaheim doesn’t yet realize the quality of the man they’ve just signed. Montreal knows full well what it has lost.”
Red Fisher (Montreal Gazette – July 2, 2009)
“I have covered this team for more than a half-century, and I cannot recall a night to match the excitement when he returned to the lineup after missing the first 79 games of the 2001-02 season because of his life-threatening battle with cancer. I can't recall any Habs crowd more giddy with pleasure welcoming a player back.
The noise erupted from the standing men, women and children even before the first of the Habs had stepped onto the ice, and grew and grew as one player followed another: Joe Juneau ... Craig Rivet and then Koivu. And now, there was no longer a noise in Molson Centre, but wave upon wave engulfing it.
‘Saku! Saku! Saku!’
He stood there at the blueline, along with the rest of the starting lineup. Then, with the noise washing around him, Koivu skated to Jose Theodore, hugged him and said:
‘C’mon, let’s do it.’
Koivu skated to the blueline, and it was only then that he removed his helmet, the lights glinting off his golden short spikes of hair - and all the while the screaming thousands stood there welcoming back one of their own seven months after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
‘Saku! Saku! Saku!’
He raised his stick, waving it like a wand signaling the magic of this moment - and who can say it wasn't on this night only moments away from the Habs' 80th game of the season? And then ... another soaring moment: the Ottawa starters skated to their bench, leaving Koivu alone with his starting colleagues.
‘Saku! Saku! Saku!’
Now he’s gone – and I’ll miss him greatly.
So will Canadiens fans.”
Marc Antoine Godin (La Presse – July 9, 2009)
“The picture of a warrior would later inspire the play of the man who would become known as Captain Courage.”
Gaston Therrien (RDS – July 8, 2009)
“There is no doubt that Saku’s work ethic was second-to-none. He gave everything he had and then some and come playoff time, he was a fierce and relentless competitor.”
Lisa Dillman (Los Angeles Times – July 9, 2009)
“Koivu's popularity in Montreal was never clearer than April 9, 2002, the night he returned for his first game after cancer treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and received an eight-minute standing ovation.”
Dan Wood (Orange County Register – July 9, 2009)
“A rapid and well-publicized recovery from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002 and a serious eye injury in 2006 only added to his Montreal legacy.
…Though only 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds, Koivu has carved a reputation as a competitive, two-way performer. Not surprisingly, many find it difficult to understand why the Canadiens let him go.”
Eric Stephens (NHL.com – July 8, 2009)
“Koivu became one of the most admired Canadiens in the franchise's storied history. His stirring comeback from a battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2002 and his willingness to play through injuries endeared him to fans in La Belle Province and throughout hockey.”
Adam Kimelman (NHL.com – July 8, 2009)
“Saku Koivu spent 10 years as captain of the Montreal Canadiens, tying him with Hockey Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau for the club record of longevity in the position.
…And with a Beliveau-like stroke of class, on the same day he signed a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks, Koivu assembled a special conference call with Montreal media members to say farewell to a town in which he spent 14 years.”
Pierre LeBrun (ESPN.com – July 8, 2009)
“He loves his brother so much; he doesn't want to risk what they have now. That's about as unselfish as it gets. So it’s off to Anaheim – where Selanne awaits.”
Wes Goldstein (CBS Sportsline.com – July 8, 2009)
“He was celebrated as a hero in Montreal when he returned from his cancer treatment for the final three games of the 2001-02 season, getting the kind of standing ovation from the 21,273 fans in attendance that only Rocket Richard had received.”
Jack Todd – (Montreal Gazette – July 7, 2009)
“If there is one word that describes both the private and the public Koivu, it is courage. Courage of every sort: the courage to accept great physical pain, the courage to face up to much larger, stronger players night after night, the courage to bite your tongue in the face of great provocation, the courage to answer stupid questions without belittling the questioner.
…This city, Saku, will never be quite the same without you.”