Saku Koivu is a compact player with a big heart and a lot of determination.
In another lifetime he could have been blessed with a bigger frame, for his father, who coached him at the junior and senior levels, he's quite tall. This has never held him back, however. He has built up his strength to the point that nine times out of 10 he is the guy who comes out of the corner with the puck. His applies a technique used by the old Soviet players against their bigger opponents from the NHL, namely checking them before they have time to recover with the puck.
Hailed as a savior by the once-mighty Montreal Canadiens, he rose to the position of captain of the club in only his fifth season with them. It was his bad luck that the club spent the whole year, his rookie year at the bottom of the standings. Nevertheless, he scored 20 goals and 45 points in 82 games. With the club's success curve pointing the wrong way, a healthy Koivu is a must. A third member of his family, his 6' 2" brother Mikko a draft pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2001 is following in his footsteps.
Born in Turku, Koivu went all the way through the system with the TPS hockey club. He still has some good memories from the domestic hockey scene. His good fortune started with a junior league gold medal in 1992. From his three years in the Finnish national league (SM-Liiga), he has a full compliment of medals, with two golds and a silver in between. He also earned a bronze with TPS in a European Championship effort.
In the summer of 2001 Koivu was was diagnosed with a form of cancer that threatened his career and his life. However, six months after being diagnosed Koivu was back on the ice leading the Canadiens to their first playoff appearance since the 1997-98 season and an upset win of the number seed in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins.
Coming off an emotional season and playoff run in 2001-02, in which Koivu captured the Bill Masterton Award, he and the Habs looked to build on their their success in 2002-03. Despite a career high in goals (21), assists (50) and points (71), Montreal fell short in their bid of returning to the post season, yet would rebound in 2003-04.
In 2006 Koivu Captained Team Finland to a silver medal in the Winter Olympics. After returning to the NHL, he would go on to lead his club in assists (53) and points (75), while recording a career high in goals (22) through the 2006-07 season. However despite his best efforts, Koivu and the Canadiens would fail to reach the playoffs.
Off the ice, since beating non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Koivu founded the Saku Koivu Foundation in 2002. Within five years, the foundation raised $2.5 million, leading to the first PET/CT scanner in Montreal. Aside from monetary donations, Koivu met patients after practices and games and signs personalized get well cards. His leadership on the ice, and humanitarian contribution to his community off the ice earned him a well deserved King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2007.
Internationally, Koivu has played on several impact teams for Finland, collecting one bronze, two silver medals, and one gold medal at the World Championships. He has also represented his homeland at the 1994, 1998, and 2006 Winter Olympics capturing two bronze medals and a silver medal.
After nearly 800 games in Montreal's familiar "bleu, blanc et rouge" the long-time captain became an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2009 and when it became clear he was not in the future plans of the Canadiens, Koivu signed on with the Anaheim Ducks.
At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Koivu would again represent Finland, helping his country bring home the bronze medal, the fourth Olympic medal for Koivu.