Knowing the love between the city of Montreal and veteran center Saku Koivu, you felt confident Thursday's pre-game ceremony honoring the recently retired veteran center and former Canadiens captain was going to be a teary-eyed affair. And it was – so teary, in fact, even Koivu got choked up as he thanked adoring fans in a tremendous speech before the two NHL teams he played for (the Habs and Anaheim Ducks) faced off.
As the Bell Centre crowd chanted his name, and with his family looking on from ice level, the 40-year-old began his speech in French, showing the deft touch he displayed during his nine years in Montreal. The Turku, Finland native spoke without staring down at his notes, hitting a high point when he told the crowd "I will always be a Hab at my heart". But when he began to discuss his bout with cancer in 2001, Koivu understandably became emotional:
Earlier in the day, Koivu met with the media to discuss being honored and look back at his time with the Habs:
Clearly, Koivu, who retired at the end of last season, will always have a deep bond with the city and franchise. Everyone affected by his on-and-off-ice battles had no problem making that clear: