Les Canards, calisse!
TSN has reported that former Canadiens captain Saku Koivu has agreed to a one year contract, valued at $3.25M, with the Anaheim Ducks.
Awesome! I hope the Habs much maligned former captain gets to hoist the Stanley Cup 11 months from now, returns to Montreal and shoves it in the face of everyone who ever slighed him!
Duck's GM Bob Murray was dead on in his appraisal of the player, saying "Koivu's character and leadership qualities are unquestioned," said General Manager Bob Murray in a team statement on Wednesday. "He is a skilled playmaker and we are thrilled to add him to our team."
I'll add my name to the list of people thrilled for Saku and excited for this new beginning. I hope that in time, he will speak with much candor about why he couldn't return to the Canadiens and finish his career where it started.
For me, the reason Koivu is with the Ducks today is pretty plain.
He was run out of town.
Had Koivu signed for another season or two in Montreal, he would equalled and then surpassed Jean Beliveau as the Canadiens longest standing captain.
Some factions (read - french media mafia) just wouldn't have that. Imagine that, the longest tenured captain of Les Canadiens de Montreal being a non - french speaking Finn. To some, that would constitute an embarrassment.
As any level headed Habs fan knows, certain media in Montreal and in Quebec can be a bigger embarrassment.
For some time now, there's been a fairly obvious mandate in certain media, designated to stain Koivu at every turn. Yesterday, I surprisingly came across a clip from radio station CKAC in Montreal, that I first heard live on the air back in late January of this year. The clip is in french, so I'll talk up the context some, for the readers who do not speak or understand the language.
This five minute clip aired just prior to the All Star Game, and was posted on February 2. The Canadiens had practiced that morning in Brossard, and the injured players - Koivu amongst them - worked out on the opposing ice surface. Immediately after practice, there was some sort of mascot competition in connection with the ASG underway in the arena, in which it was said that 600 kids were in attendance.
Koivu crossed the ice, not long after doing a few laps and exercises, in which he learned that he had suffered a setback in his rehab. He was accompanied by Scott Livingstone, the team's trainer. Koivu left the ice solemnly. Obviously dejected, he failed to stop when his name was acknowledged over the loudspeaks, as fans, including many children, yelled his name out. His head bowed, he left the Brossard ice surface.
A journalist present from CKAC couldn't believe his eyes. He considered Koivu's actions (lack of acknowledgement) impardonable as captain. It is discussed briefly in the clip that Koivu seemed bummed that the injury he was rehabbing was not coming along as he'd hoped, but that was cast aside by the reporter calling in, who said he was most upset when he saw a father with a son by his side - unconsolable from the apparent snub. All told, those discussing this, including Jacques Demers, felt it was inexcusable behavior by a captain, regardless of the circumstances.
The You Tube clip of the conversation on CKAC goes a length further. There is no accompanying video, only text, and it declares in the sidebar that RDS had taken down from it's site, a video of what had transpired that day in Brossard. In the available links leading to five 110% clips from the day, the event was only briefly discussed. In the You Tube clip, there are a five questions.
Saku is an honourable man?
Saku represents the Canadiens well?
Saku continues in the Canadiens tradition?
Saku is an excellent captain?
Saku deserved to remain with the CH?
Listen for yourself. Here's the clip.
Now here's the thing. I was listening to this entire broadcast on CKAC that afternoon, and I remember it very well, especially because of what came next.
Immediately following this rant, the station took calls. The first caller in, was upset about what he had heard, because he was at the Brossard arena at that moment, watching Koivu mingle with fans outside the building. According to this caller, it was customary for Koivu to meet fans outside, and not usually inside a building. There were about 50 fans gathered there, and Koivu spent time with all of them, signing caps and conversing with the group. He did not leave until he had given each kid a moment of his time.
When this went over the airwaves, it pricked the balloon as far as the topic went. Another caller, minutes later testified to witnessing the same scene, and berated the show for rushing to judgement in Koivu - more than on just this single occasion. After onemore caller echoed similar sentiments, it was announced that a commercial break was up next, after which the discourse moved on to another subject altogether.
I'll say it again. Koivu is gone because it was unthinkable for certain folkks that he would surpass Jean Beliveau as the Canadiens longest standing captain.
Jack Todd, in his timely column in yesterday's Gazette, said the following.
"... this team has lost a great little captain. To his credit, Bob Gainey (who has not always been the best friend to his friends) had enough class to call Koivu and thank him for his contributions to this community, on and off the ice.
In all their illustrious history, the Canadiens never had a player with more heart than Saku Koivu. It is to our eternal shame that he was too often the target of attacks from bigots in this province: to our eternal credit that some of us were able to recognize what a rare individual Koivu is and to celebrate with him his greatest triumph, the return from cancer.
This city, Saku, will never be the quite same without you."
Some fans, too, Jack!
I don't know about how you feel, but I feel more like an onlooker and less like a fan of this team everyday.
The team I have cheered for my entire life, is just not supposed to act as it did with Koivu.