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Koivu, Saku
Montreal Canadiens

For a team that has been riddled with injuries over the past few years, the Montreal Canadiens were optimistic heading into the 2001-02 season. After signing free agents Yanic Perreault, Joe Juneau and Adreas Dackell during the off-season and the rising star of goaltender José Théodore, the Habs were looking forward to making their first playoff appearance since the 1996-97 season. However the team received disturbing news prior to the opening of training camp. SAKU KOIVU, the team's captain and leader, had become ill while flying in from Finland to Montreal. Following a meeting with doctors and the team's medical staff, KOIVU was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer. Although he missed the majority of the 2001-02 season, KOIVU's will and determination to beat his cancer enabled him to return to Montreal's roster for the final games of the regular season. KOIVU's return to the ice was inspirational to his teammates and to the Montreal fans, as they clinched their first playoff appearance in five years. Montreal went on to upset the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. KOIVU finished the 2001-02 playoffs with four goals, six assists, and 10 points. Carolina's Ron Francis and Columbus' Kevin Dineen were runners-ups to KOIVU in BILL MASTERTON TROPHY voting.

Koivu, Saku