The Return of "Saku the Great"

The Montreal Canadiens clinched a play-off berth yesterday in a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators, but the big story last night was the return of one of hockey’s best players, Saku Koivu, returning from seven months of chemotherapy to record 8:22 in game time and earn the first star of the game.

(Source: NHL.com)Before the game, Koivu, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on Sept. 12, received a thunderous and exubrant eight-minute standing ovation from the fans of Montreal. Even the Senators got into the act, tapping their sticks on the ice, and goaltender Jani Hurme was seen clapping with his blocker and trapper.

“It was overwhelming,” Koivu told NHL.com. “I really appreciated what happened there.”

Koivu didn’t do too much on the ice except play, but that’s all he needed to do. Andreas Dackell, Craig Rivet and Richard Zednik opened a 3-0 lead and Yanic Perreault’s early third period goal proved to be the winner as the Sens couldn’t complete the comeback from a 4-1 deficit.

“I wasn’t the best player on the ice, but it felt good,” continued Koivu. Still, Koivu didn’t need to: just seeing him out there was enough, seeing him triumph against all odds.

Personally, this story makes me feel good inside. I was born in Montreal, and, while the team isn’t my favourite, it is up there. I remember hearing of Koivu’s fate, on Sept. 12, a day after tragedy struck on that fateful Tuesday. It seemed that Koivu’s sickness just added to the tragedy, and left a dark cloud over the whole world, sports and real. Then for him to come back and play again is inspiring and elevating, knowing that even in the darkest of weeks, there was a small light, and that light was Koivu. All Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette concluded in his article appearing at NHL.com was just the cheer that Saku received in Montreal: “SAKU! SAKU! SAKU!”, and that’s all needed to do.

From all of us at HTR, our hearts go out to you Saku, and hope you reach more heights than you’ve probably never even imagined.

Go Saku Go!

-DG