Former Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks center Saku Koivu announced his retirement Wednesday.
"Looking back at my 22 years of pro hockey, first in Finland and then in the NHL, I feel truly blessed and fulfilled," he said in a statement released by the NHL Players' Association. "I have been contemplating retirement for quite some time and am very confident in my decision at this time and place."
Koivu, 39, played 18 seasons in the NHL, appearing in 1,124 regular-season games and 80 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He scored 255 goals and had 832 points in the regular season, and 18 goals and 59 points in the playoffs.
Longtime Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks center Saku Koivu announced his retirement Wednesday after 18 seasons in the NHL. (Photo: Graig Abel/NHLI, Debora Robinson/NHLI)
He was captain of the Montreal Canadiens for nine seasons, from 1999-2000 to 2008-09, becoming the first European-born player to hold that role.
"I feel I was truly lucky to have a chance to play for the legendary Canadiens for so many years and serve as captain and share that great honor with many truly legendary captains from before my time," he said.
Koivu spent the final five seasons of his NHL career in Anaheim with fellow Finn Teemu Selanne, who retired after last season.
“[Saku is] a great human being and everything he did was well-deserved,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I want to congratulate him and thank him for the years."
The Canadiens selected Koivu in the first round (No. 21) of the 1993 NHL Draft. He ranks in the top five among Finnish-born NHL players in games played, goals, assists and points.
Koivu was a regular for the Finnish national team and served as captain. As a professional he won nine international medals, including four in the Olympics (bronze in 1994, 1998 and 2010; silver in 2006). Koivu missed the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the majority of the 2001-02 season while receiving treatment for non-Hodgkins intra-abdominal lymphoma.
Koivu returned to the Canadiens lineup in the 80th game of the 2001-02 season and received a long ovation from the fans in Montreal. He was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2002.
"You're going to look back and see all the things he did with the Canadiens and the Ducks and the Finnish national team as well, I think he has the respect of each and every team and in each and every town that he played for, from his country, from his teammates and from the staffs," his younger brother, Minnesota Wild forward Mikko Koivu, told the Star-Tribune. "He has always been a class act, and I think you're going to hear that a lot from around the League and around the hockey world."
Saku also left a legacy in Montreal with the creation of the Saku Koivu Foundation in 2002, which has raised $8 million to buy a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner for the Montreal General Hospital that has aided in the treatment of cancer patients.
"My time in Montreal was special beyond playing hockey," Koivu said. "Thank you to the fans and lovely people of Montreal for your support and love, and for providing my family and me with wonderful memories that we will always cherish as well as the immense support during my illness. Thank you with all my heart to Dr. and Mrs. David Mulder and Dr. and Mrs. Blair Whittemore and the staff at Montreal General Hospital for saving my life."