It's hard to say anything bad about Saku Koivu. He has been a captain wherever he has played. Montreal Canadiens, Team Finland, and the Anaheim Ducks. He is simply a guy that commands respect on and off the ice. He dispelled the stereotype that European players are soft when he brought his gritty, relentless style of play to North America in 1995. Koivu wore his heart on his sleeve and played much bigger than his size.
However, this style did not come without a price. He was often injured early in his career and just when he thought things would turn around he was diagnosed with cancer. It was a gut-wrenching time for him and all of those that cared for him. He sought out the guidance of Mario Lemieux and reached out to John Cullen and Lance Armstrong. Thousands of fans sent their support his way and he overcame the disease.
Many thought that he would take the summer to recover his strength and return the following season, but he made a remarkable recovery and returned to the Habs for the final regular season game and received an eight minute standing ovation. To this date it was one of the most moving tributes I've seen in the sport.
As if he didn't suffer enough problems, Koivu almost lost his eye during a game and doctors had to repair a detached retina in an emergency operation. It's hard enough imagining these trials and tribulations so it's a tribute to him that he was able to overcome them.
One would think that after battlings these problems and giving his all to his team that the fans and media would be a little bit more forgiving of him, but he played in Montreal, not Columbus. Near the end of his time in Montreal he was publicly criticized for not using French in a pre-taped video before a game.
Of a script-writer is looking for an athlete with a personal story of courage and triumph, they need to look no further than Saku Koivu.