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Olympic veteran Koivu relishes idea of one more run

Thursday, 10.24.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2014 Olympics

By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

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Olympic veteran Koivu relishes idea of one more run
Saku Koivu has so many Olympic medals he isn't quite sure where some of them are kept, and now the Anaheim Ducks center is hoping for a shot at a fifth medal as the 2014 Sochi Olympics approach.

ANAHEIM -- Saku Koivu has so many Olympic medals he isn't quite sure where some of them are kept.

He said he thinks "one or two" of his four are in California, while the rest are at home in Finland. Like a lot of modest athletes, he doesn't have them on display, perhaps because that's usually what players do long after their careers end and they have time to reflect.

"I'll probably put them in a nice place after we're done playing," Koivu said. "Right now I haven't found a place for them yet."

Koivu's international experience is so extensive he was elected to the International Olympic Committee as an athlete representative in 2006 and carried the Olympic torch during the run-up to the Summer Games in London in 2012. The only thing that has prevented him from having five Winter Games appearances already is a bout with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma early in his career.

Saku Koivu
Center - ANA
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 12 | +/-: -1
So, yes, the prospect of a record fifth medal, when he will be 39, is on Koivu's mind with the 2014 Sochi Olympics a few months away. Koivu still revels in the camaraderie of the Olympic village, the world's best athletes in one clique.

"It is a special place for an athlete," Koivu told NHL.com. "It's just not for hockey. You get to experience everything else. Everybody talks about the Olympic experience, but you really can feel that, and you can watch the other athletes and how they prepare themselves."

Koivu shares the all-time Olympic men's hockey record with four medals, having won bronze in 1994, 1998 and 2010 and silver in 2006 with Finland. The others are Finnish teammates Jere Lehtinen and Ville Peltonen, Igor Kravchuk of Russia, Vladislav Tretiak of the former Soviet Union and Jiri Holik of the former Czechoslovakia.

Even Anaheim Ducks teammate and countryman Teemu Selanne is taken aback by Koivu's passion for the Olympics.

"I got a little surprised when he wanted to get in because it's a lot of work and a lot of pride," Selanne said. "That's what he wanted and he did a great job. He took it really seriously."

History and reverence aside, Koivu also is aware of the implications of another Olympic foray in the middle of his fifth season with Anaheim.

He knows firsthand.

The Ducks were torpedoed immediately after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where nine Anaheim players participated and an NHL-record seven medaled. Anaheim was on a 14-6-0 roll before the Olympic break, but the players came back emotionally drained because Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Scott Niedermayer, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Whitney played through to the thrilling gold-medal game.

Anaheim never regained traction and went 0-4-1 out of the break and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2007 Stanley Cup season. That's primarily why Koivu has some reservations about these games.

"We were doing amazing before, then we lost four or five in a row and that was the reason we didn't make the playoffs," Koivu said of 2010.

"We'll see. I've experienced that. But having a fifth one would be amazing. At the same time, at this age, getting a break during a tough, tough schedule and the team is doing well here. That's another thing. So you have to have perspective and really be 100-percent certain you have what it takes to go there, to physically and mentally feel that you're up to it. If you make the team, you've got to make your decision."

Koivu has landed nicely with the Ducks, having accepted a third-line center spot with Daniel Winnik and Andrew Cogliano as his linemates. He keeps a low profile in Anaheim, where he rarely is seen in the Ducks' dressing room and, on this particular day, did a rare sit-down with NHL.com and a local beat reporter prior to Anaheim's season-high eight-game trip that made media-frenzied stops in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

"Having going gone through it once before I am hoping that my nerves are not going to be as overwhelming as they were last time and the night's going to be a little bit easier for me. It was a difficult night to try and get ready because of the emotions, but it was a fun one."
-- Saku Koivu on returning to Montreal

Thursday marks Koivu's potential final appearance in Montreal, where he was Canadiens captain for 10 years and beat the cancer that was in his abdomen.

"The first [time back in 2011] was the one that was really emotional," Koivu said. "Obviously it's going to bring back the memory, no doubt. Hopefully the reaction is going to be the same as it was last time, which was amazing. I'm looking forward to that game.

"Having going gone through it once before I am hoping that my nerves are not going to be as overwhelming as they were last time and the night's going to be a little bit easier for me. It was a difficult night to try and get ready because of the emotions, but it was a fun one."

Koivu said he hasn't had much communication with Jari Kurri, general manager for the Finnish national team. He attended evaluation camp in the summer but that mostly was to go over dates. "No ball hockey like the Canadians," Koivu said, joking.

Selanne, the all-time leading scorer in Olympic men's hockey, of course is excited at the prospect of pulling on the Suomi sweater with Koivu one more time, at 43.

"That's probably the biggest one event in the sporting world," Selanne said. "Obviously playing for your own country is always so special. For myself, I will have a chance to play in my sixth Olympics. That's something really, really special. I'm really thankful for."

Selanne talks like Koivu's participation is a foregone conclusion. If there was any doubt about it, Koivu eliminated it when he corrected a reporter's question about this maybe being his final Olympics.

"It will be my last one," Koivu said.

2014 OLYMPICS POLL