Saku Koivu makes his retun on April 9, 2002 (Photo: RYAN REMIORZ, AP)
The game itself for the Canadiens on April 9, 2002 had some key implications for the Habs. It was the third-last game of the season, and the Canadiens, battling for a final playoff spot, defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-3. The win gave them a very valuable two points that would allow them to hang on to eight place, despite losing their final two games.
But on that night in April, it wasn’t about points or playoff positions, it was about courage.
The start of Montreal’s 93rd season started with a shocker as captain Saku Koivu announced he had intra-abdominal non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a form of cancer. Until five years prior, this form of cancer was considered uncurable. But with advances in science there was hope. The question was, could Koivu return to the ice?
After a remarkable recuperation time and tremendous training regimen that amazed even his doctors, Koivu answered with an astounding “Yes!” in a matter of months.
His return to the ice brought a standing ovation that lasted eight minutes, nearly the amount of playing time he would have in his first game back.
Eleven years since, and Koivu is still in the NHL. He won’y make it to the Hocley Hall of Fame, but his courage is of Hall of Fame calibre in our hearts.
An exceptional look back on Koivu’s triumph from Robert Lefebvre can be read here.
Also on this day…
1934: The Canadiens acquire Albert “Battleship” Leduc form the Ottawa Senators for cash.
1946: Elmer Lach scored a goal and added two assists as Montreal beat the Boston Bruins 6-3 in Game Five of the Finals, to become the 1946 Stanley Cup Champions. It was the Canadiens' second Stanley Cup in three years.
1953: Rookie goalie Jacques Plante improved his career playoff record to 3-0, with a 4-2 Canadiens' win over the Bruins, in Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals.
1957: Plante recorded his 6th career playoff shutout, and Jean Beliveau scored the game's only goal at 2:27 of the second period, to lead the Canadiens to a 1-0 win over Boston, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
1964: Bernie Geoffrion played his final game for the Montreal Canadiens, a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals.
1987: Mats Naslund scored at 2:38 of overtime to lead the Canadiens to a 4-3 win over the Bruins in Game 2 of the Adams Division Semi-Finals.
1989: Larry Robinson set an NHL record by appearing in his 186th career playoff game, a 4-3 Montreal OT win over the Hartford Whalers in Game 4 of the Adams Division Semi-Finals. Robinson passed Denis Potvin, who had played 185 playoff games.
Habs Born on This Day: Wayne Hicks (1937), Jimmy Roberts (1940)