Monday, November 23, 2009
Born on this date in 1974, Saku Koivu of Finland was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 21st overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.
He began his career playing for TPS in his hometown of Turku, Finland. While he only scored 10 points during the regular season, he did score 5 points in 11 playoff games as TPS captured the SM-liiga playoff championship.
Progress was rapid for Koivu, as he would increase his point total to 53 in his second year and lead the league in scoring in his third with 73 points in 45 games and 17 more points in 13 games on his way to another playoff championship. He was named as the player's choice award for best player as well as regular season league MVP and playoff MVP.
Koivu would come to North America in 1995-96 to join the Canadiens. 45 points in 82 games his first year would be eclipsed in his second season with 56 points in only 50 games due to an injury. The remainder of Koivu's career would be dogged by injuries, as he currently has only five seasons of more than 70 games out of 13 seasons.
The litany of ailments seems endless. Knee injury, leg injuries, a dislocated shoulder, another knee injury, knee surgery, a public bout with lymphoma, more knee problems, a stick in the eye which resulted in a detached retina and a broken foot.
In 1999, Koivu was named captain of the Canadiens, the first European to hold that honor, and a position he would hold for the remaining nine seasons he would spend in Montreal. Despite the injuries, Koivu was a effective and respected captain and a consistently productive player when healthy.
After missing all but three games of the 2001-02 because of his lymphoma, Koivu would make an emotional comeback on April 9th and receive an eight-minute standing ovation. Following the final three games of the regular season, Koivu would score 10 points in 12 playoff games for Montreal, including eliminating top seeded and long-time rivals the Boston Bruins. Following the season he was named as the recipient of the Bill Masterton Trophy.
It was quite a statement that Koivu would then play in all 82 games of the Canadiens 2002-03 season and score 71 points in the process to lead the team by 21 points.
During the NHL lockout of 2004-05, Koivu would return home to play for TPS, who were coached by his father Jukka.
The 2006-07 season would see Koivu reach his 500th point at home on January 9, 2007. He would play 81 games that season, which would allow him to total 22 goals and 53 assists for a career-high 75 points in his 11th season, when many players careers are on the decline. In addition, he would be named that season's winner of the King Clancy Trophy.
Koivu would reach the 600-point plateau in October of 2008 and tie Jean Beliveau as the longest serving captain in team history at the conclusion of his 10th season as captain.
For the 2009-10 season, Koivu passed on the opportunity to play with his younger brother Mikko on the Minnesota Wild and instead opted to join fellow Finn Teemu Selanne on the Anaheim Ducks.
Internationally, Saku Koivu has been a long time and vital member of the Finnish National Team, competing for Finland on numerous occasions and being named team captain starting with the 1998 Winter Olympics.
He got his start for Finland at the 1993 World Junior Championships and later the World Championships that same year. He repeated the double in 1994, participating in both the World Juniors and World Championships, earning a silver medal at the Worlds. Further appearances in the World Championships came in 1995 (capturing gold), 1997, 1999 (silver), 2003 and 2008 (bronze) while being named Best Forward in 1995 and 1999, when he was the leading scorer.
Koivu would also skate for Finland in both the 1996 and 2004 World Cup of Hockey, earning a silver in 2004, as well as the Olympics earning a bronze medals in both 1994 and 1998 and a silver medal in 2006 as the top scorer of the tournament with 11 points in 8 games. His current international totals show 92 points in 83 games, three bronze medals, four silvers and a gold.
Today's featured jersey is a 2008-09 Montreal Canadiens Saku Koivu 1945-46 Centennial jersey and features the Montreal Canadiens Centennial patch, worn only on the right shoulder of their Centennial Jerseys.
The Canadians used another patch featuring the number "100" in a block font like the numbers on the back of their regular home red and road white jerseys. To differentiate the two styles, we prefer to call that style the "100 Seasons" patch while calling the calligraphic style used only on the Centennial Jerseys the "Centennial" patch. By the way "calligraphic" is your Third String Goalie Vocabulary Word of the Day.
This jersey was worn on November 15, 2008 versus the Philadelphia Flyers and again on March 14, 2009 against the New Jersey Devils to recognize the Stanley Cup Championship team of 1946 led by the "Punch Line" of Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach.
This style of jersey has made several appearances for the Canadiens in recent years, first as part of the NHL Vintage Jersey Program in 2003-04, most notably in the Heritage Classic outdoor game in Edmonton in 2003. Jerseys from this season used red numbers outlined only in blue and had the "V" patch on the right chest.
The jersey returned after the lockout in 2005-06, only this time with more legible three color numbers in red, trimmed in white and outlined in blue in a serifed font that now differs from the home and road jersey, again with the "V" patch on the right chest.
For 2006-07, the jersey was promoted to the Canadiens third jersey for one season with the same three color number treatment, but no longer sporting the "V" patch.
After an absence of one year, when all third jerseys were discontinued for the initial season of the Reebok Edge jerseys, the 1945-46 jersey made it's return as part of the Centennial Jersey program as featured here today at Third String Goalie, still with the three color numbers and no "V" patch in the exact same specifications as the 2006-07 third jersey with it's squared waist and not in the new Reebok Edge jersey template and it's curved lower shirt-tail look.
Today's video is a tribute to Koivu that recounts his career with the Montreal Canadiens and includes a portion of the extended standing ovation he received upon his return from his cancer treatments in 2002.