Saku Koivu announced this morning that he will be retiring from the NHL. Koivu’s career has spanned 18 yearsand 1,124 NHL games with two teams: the Montreal Canadiens and the Anaheim Ducks. His first 13 seasons were spent with the Montreal Canadiens, 10 of which he was team captain, tying Jean Beliveau for the longest captaincy in team history.
In his official statement Koivu reflected on his 22 year professional hockey career:
Looking back at my 22 years of pro hockey first in Finland and then in the NHL I feel truly blessed and fulfilled. I have been contemplating retirement for quite some time and am very confident in my decision at this time and place.
Koivu was drafted 21st overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 NHL Draft and made his Habs debut during the 1995-96 season. Koivu was a Team Finland member during the 1994, 1998, 2006, and 2010 Olympics, in addition to representing Finland at several World Championship and World Junior Championship competitions.
Koivu missed the majority of the 2001-02 season after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins intra-abdominal lymphoma, but he was able to defeat the cancer and return to the Canadiens lineup on April 9th, 2002 and help them clinch a playoff spot.
In 2009, Koivu signed with the Anaheim Ducks as a free agent. Koivu proved that his career was not on the decline by putting up his seventh straight 50-point season. He appeared in his 1,000th career game on March 12, 2012 against the Colorado Avalanche.
Koivu follows fellow Fin, Teemu Selanne into retirement this season, signifying an end of an era for both the NHL and the Anaheim Ducks. Koivu and Selanne were both regarded as outstanding leaders, and tremendous talents on offense.
There has been a tremendous outpouring on social media today from Canadiens, Ducks, and hockey fans. Here is just a sampling of some:
One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in this sport, Saku Koivu, is retiring. Great player, great person.
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) September 10, 2014
Saku Koivu is a MAN among men. He was an inspiration, a mentor, a friend, and an unbelievable competitor. He showed me what it meant to be
First Teemu retires and now Saku Koivu. My childhood players are slowly leaving one by one
— Robert Słowik (@Robbie_SL) September 10, 2014