For more information regarding our move, please read the two last post published below.

07 April 2007

Koivu interview by Harry Rosen...

I realize I'm a month late, but I found this on Harry Rosen while trying to learn how to tie a tie for Easter!

Hey Koivu, wow, c'est chic ça!

I wonder if he got to keep the clothes?

Q: Thanks for your time today, I understand you've got a hectic schedule.
Saku: Yeah, we just finished practice and now it's straight off to Boston.

Q: Saturday's game in Toronto: Pleased with the outcome?
Saku: Yeah, it was a good game for me personally, and of course we won. But playing against Toronto is always fun. Those are probably the games you enjoy the most. The crowd is always so excited; you can feel the tension. It's usually half Maple Leafs fans, half Canadiens cheering and so those are big, exciting games.

Q: Growing up in Finland were you able to follow the NHL?

Saku: No, not a lot. We liked to watch but we didn't get many games. Usually the ones we got were Edmonton, because Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen played there. Maybe once a month we'd see a game. But it was enough to give us our heroes.

Q: You've become quite a hero yourself in Montreal. How do you enjoy living here?
Saku: I've been living here since '95. It's a great city. I mean, you can always complain about the weather, it's not the greatest. But for a young couple - it was just my wife and I when we moved here - all the restaurants and the culture made it very exciting for both of us. And of course the French aspect makes it very unique.

Q: Did your wife come with you from Finland?
Saku: She's been here - now don't quote me - I think, seven, eight years. She loves it here. There are a lot of great cities but this one is up there for being social and vibrant… Pretty much anything you are looking for you can find in Montreal.

Q: How are the fans?
Saku: Montreal fans? They are very, very passionate. There's a long tradition and they are used to winning. Not that it's easy or fun all the time. When things are not going well they let you know how they feel about it. But at the same time, and I really feel this, if you can play in Montreal I believe you can play anywhere.

Q: So how do you like being Captain?
Saku: Well, I've been captain since '98, so it's a few years now. I like it, but it's a big job, especially in Montreal. I still feel it's about being myself - and relating to the guys. I'm sure that one day, when I look back on who else have been captains here, the full weight of it will be something I realize and I'll say, "Wow!" There have always been big skates to fill in this town, that's for sure.

Q: I remember watching an eight-minute standing ovation when you stepped on the ice after your battle with cancer. How did that feel?
Saku: The reaction I got from fans that night was really something, but honestly it's a bit of a blur for me because so much was going on. It was a short time, but a long road for me. My wife and I, we sunk right to the bottom when we found out about the cancer. We thought the worst. First of all, 'Am I going to live?' And then, 'Am I going to play hockey?' There was no guarantee that things would be good in the end. I missed a good chunk of that year, but then there I was back for the playoffs. And it was kind of a goal for us to get there. Being on the ice again was like proof for me that the cancer was gone. There was a lot of emotion for me there, that night.

Q: You battled back from non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. What was that like?
Saku: We got the diagnosis in September and started treatments right away and stopped treatments in January. Then I had the PET scan in February that said I was in remission. So, really, it was the end of February when I was able to start getting back into shape. I think my first game back was April 6th.

Q: You've been in remission for five years now?
Saku: Yes. I just passed the five-year mark in January. You know, every year you're in remission is a positive marker, but the fifth year is a big deal. Now that we're past that, we're feeling quite positive about things. I still need to get tested regularly, but from a medical standpoint the cancer is gone and I can lead a normal life.

Q: Do you think in some ways it's made you a better hockey player, or a better captain?
Saku: Yeah, totally. I mean I think I was very tough on myself, competitive and passionate about the game before, but it was in what I now see was a selfish, immature way. It would take me a while to get over a bad game and even when things were going well, I might beat up on myself to push harder, to do more and more. That's good in a way, but at a certain point that stuff becomes a barrier too. The cancer gave me a new perspective - to enjoy myself and my life and the game, whether it's going well or not. It's a game, not life or death every minute I'm on the ice, because now I actually know what life or death situations really feel like.

Q: That 'perspective' is common among survivors, but some would argue that your game has improved since the cancer. What do you make of that?
Saku: Maybe. Playing hockey at this level, where everyone is that good, a mental thing kicks in and you play mind games with yourself that can diminish your own ability. I think, in a strange way, cancer has freed me of that. I'm not competing with myself so much anymore. I'm just out on the ice playing the best hockey I can.

Q: Can you talk about the foundation you created coming out of that ordeal?
Saku: It's something we set up during the treatments. My wife and I, and our families, we got talking a lot about the treatments and we couldn't help wondering if there was something more that could be done, given the life-and-death nature of our situation. We also wanted to give something back to the medical community and the community in general that had rallied around us. Our battle with cancer was a very public one and it dawned on us that we could use that to generate momentum for a cause. Then along the way we also realized that we were getting these vital PET scans to monitor my recovery. We were traveling to Sherbrooke for them because there wasn't a PET scanner in Montreal. Those results were so pivotal and cathartic for us that one day, when we were coming back from Sherbrooke, we said to ourselves, "Montreal needs to have one of these machines! That's what the foundation is going to achieve!" And we did it. In fact, my last check-up was on that machine.

Q: Forgive me, but what exactly is the role of a PET Scan in terms of treatment?
Saku: It's a machine that catches stuff early. And that provides instant, emotional gratification in terms of the recovery process. So, I said to myself, "The people of Montreal have to have access to one of these!" Don't get me wrong, I would love to win a Stanley Cup for this town, but going through what I did in terms of cancer and then being able to help bring a PET Scan machine to Montreal. That felt like a big win right there.
(Adda boy Saku!)

Q: What's next for the Foundation?
Saku: Our next project is raising funds to assist families coping with cancer, to help them go to appointments, look after themselves and all of that. We need to do what we can as a community to lift some of the burden.

Q: What's it like being a father?
Saku: My son is eight months, my daughter is two years and three months. It's just amazing. I used to say cancer changed my life, but it was nothing compared to these kids. They widen your perspective in ways no one can explain. And it was an especially big deal for us because, with the cancer treatments, there are no guarantees you'll be able to have children. Now, having two happy, healthy kids is the ultimate reminder that we beat cancer.

Q: How does playing for the Canadiens differ from playing for Team Finland?
Saku: Well, your home country is your home country, so there's an emotion attached that's different. It's more intense, too, because you come together with guys you don't normally play with. The training camp is very short, very intense versus the long NHL season, so it brings different things out of you as a player. It's very exhilarating. I think if you ask any guy in the NHL, you'll find that however much allegiance he may have for his team - and when you play for the Canadiens, you have a lot - when you pull on your National Team Jersey and you hear the anthem, that means a lot as an experience.

Q: Still a bit of a different game over there?
Saku: Yes, sure. But for me that's not really an adjustment because, like other European players, I grew up playing on those ice surfaces. So even though it may be only every four years of so, it still feels very familiar, very second nature to play that game.

Q: Who do you think would win if we could get Team Finland to play the Canadiens?
Saku: (Laughs.) Okay, whoa! Now you're putting me on the spot. That's like asking if I'd prefer a gold medal or Stanley Cup. The truth is, I want both!

Q: A lot of players wear suits these days. Is that like a second uniform for you guys?
Saku: Yeah, it's a league rule for how we present ourselves. But I think it's good. It brings a level of professionalism and, hey, it is our profession after all.

Q: Who picks your clothes out in the morning, you or your wife?
Saku: My wife of course. She has better taste than me, but she's teaching me a lot. And so now I do have veto power if I don't like something.

Q: Do you find shopping intimidating?
Saku: No, not at all. I like to shop, especially in Montreal. There's a lot of style here and so it's easy. But not only that, you have to keep up in this town, so that you don't look like a bum from Toronto. (Laughs.) I'm kidding, but no, I definitely enjoy shopping.

Q: Who's the best-dressed guy in the league?Saku: Well that's hard to say specifically but I'm certain us guys who play for the Canadiens are up there. Like I said, this is a stylish town.

Very interesting, to say the least.

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge

2 fanatics have replied:

Sherry said...

You know what? I think I see a little bit of Zoolander in ol' Koivu there :D

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge said...


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