In about 30 minutes, the Anaheim Ducks will drop the puck against the Montreal Canadiens. The opening face-off will feature one of my favorite all-time Habs, Saku Koivu. The longest serving captain in Canadiens history, Koivu is a beloved player, for what he did on and off the ice in Montreal. The statistics don’t tell the full story of his tenure. Yes, the Habs failed to win a Stanley Cup during this period, but the determination and leadership of Koivu was still evident in each game.
Casual fans might remember that Koivu successfully fought and beat cancer. The ovation during his 1st game back in Montreal is incredibly moving. Habs fans are an interesting group- incredibly supportive while at the same time full of unrealistic expectations. Despite the lack of team success, they were moved by the determination and spirit of their Captain.
Tonight is a reminder to me of why sports is such an integral part of my life. I think about the time I was in Montreal in 1996 and during a break in a track meet at McGill, I ran to the Forum to get a look inside the arena and pick up some souvenirs. One of the things I bought that day was a #11 t-shirt and despite it being full of holes from excessive wear, I cannot bring myself to throw it out. The next time I went back to Montreal, I bought a Habs jersey and had no hesitation when deciding which name and number to have on the back.
I wish I was in the crowd tonight to stand with the rest of the Habs fans in welcoming our Captain back to Montreal. I sit here wearing (a newer) Habs Koivu t-shirt and I think of the times I celebrated a goal, a win, and of course the emotional return from the battle with cancer. I will be there in spirit, thankful that my team was lucky enough to have had Saku Koivu on its roster for such a long time.
Even though I haven’t seen Saku raise the Cup while wearing le bleu, blanc et rouge, one can still hold on the slim hopes that it will happen. This is why we root, this is why we feel the agony, and this is why even at 40, we act like small children when our team wins.
Thank you Saku!