Sunday, March 27, 2016

Saku Koivu Swatch Card

I still find it hard to believe we are in Year Two of the post-Saku Koivu era in hockey, if only because after the Montréal Canadiens decided not to re-sign their long-serving captain following the disaster that was the Centennial 2008-09 season, Montrealers were already hearing less about him than we were used to, as he was now playing alongside his friend Teemu Selanne with the Anaheim Ducks; both Finnish legends retired following the 2013-14 campaign.

Koivu managed to not only make Team Finland following the Habs releasing him, but win yet another Olympic bronze medal - his third, to go along with his silver from 2006 - on Canadian soil, no less. He captained his national team from 1998 until 2010, despite also having Selanne, Jari Kurri, Kimmo Timonen, Jere Lehtinen and younger brother Mikko Koivu on that team at various points. He was invited to take part - and presumably hold the captaincy once more - in 2014, but declined, the official reason being that he was recovering from a concussion, though many believe it was to not force the team into playing a 39-year-old on the first line and let younger players have a go at it.

Because that's the kind of leader Koivu was: not the screaming, "rah, rah" type, but the wise, lead-by-example kind of guy who makes a difference and plows through anything that may come his way. That's why Quebecers loved him as one of their own, and why the Habs didn't wait until the presses had dried on his career being over to celebrate his career post-retirement in a lavish ceremony.

I hadn't yet featured him as a Duck; it wasn't out of spite or anything, I just didn't have anything that had the aura, class and simplicity I was looking for until I bought this card on Ebay last year:
It's #LE-SK from Panini's 2013-14 Playbook series and Limited Edition sub-set (numbered 37/99, I would have preferred #11, but you take what you can), showing him wearing Anaheim's white (away) uniform, with a matching jersey swatch at the bottom, with a nice picture, with a full view of his alternate captain's "A" and the team's 20th anniversary patch.

All told, injuries will have stopped him from reaching the 1000-point mark, leaving him at 255 goals, 577 assists and 832 points in 1124 NHL regular-season games, plus another 18 goals, 41 assists and 59 points in 80 playoff games. But with four Olympic medals, a second-place finish at the 2004World Cup and at a hat trick of World Championship medals (gold in 1995, silver in 1994 and 1999 and bronze in 2008), he's a shoe-in for the IIHF Hall Of Fame.

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