Saku Koivu is hanging up his skates after 18 seasons in the NHL.
The longtime Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens legend, and four-time Finnish Olympic medalist, announced on Thursday his decision to retire. The Ducks had already decided after the season that they wouldn’t be re-signing Koivu, meaning he would have to test free agency if he wanted his NHL career to continue.
Koivu said he was content with his decision to call it quits.
“All in all, it has been a dream come true,” Koivu said in a statement released by the NHLPA. “But what I value the most in hockey is the feeling of being part of a team and the friendships I have made along the way…. I have been contemplating retirement for quite some time, and am very confident in my decision at this time and place.”
Koivu broke into the NHL in 1995, later becoming the first European-born captain in Montreal franchise history.
“My time in Montreal was special beyond playing hockey,” Koivu said. “Thank you to the fans and lovely people of Montreal for your support and love, and for providing my family and me with wonderful memories that we will always cherish, as well as the immense support during my illness.”
He notched 255 goals and 577 assists in 1,124 career NHL games, including a career-high 75 points for the Canadiens in the 2006-07 season.
Saku Koivu never made it past the second round of the playoffs, but did find some success in international hockey. He served as Finland’s team captain in his four trips to the Winter Olympics, where the team took home a medal each time. In 2006 he led the team to the gold medal game, though they lost to Sweden.
Koivu was also known for his perseverance. After getting sick on a flight to Montreal in 2001, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and missed most of the 2001-02 season while undergoing chemotherapy.
Saku Koivu didn’t announce much of his plans for retirement, but said he will continue living in Irvine, California.
[Photo via OC Register]