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In 2002, when Canadiens captain Saku Koivu battled a stomach cancer that not only threatened his career, but his life, the hockey world was captivated by his courageous fight and eventual return to the game.
I’d guess that if you are reading this, you recall the events leading up to April 9, 2002, and remember even more vividly, the game the Canadiens played that night upon Saku’s return. If you did not live through that swell of emotions, chances are, as a Habs, you have heard or read about that legendary night, and game, at the rink that was then known as the Molson Centre.
The night Koivu returned that season, is known in Canadiens’ lore as the evening the Molson (Bell) Centre found its heart. What you will read below, will explain in great detail, why that is.
If you happen to be a Canadiens fan who does not live within the immediate one hour circumference of the city, it is unlikely that you were fortunate enough to experience the in – depth coverage that Koivu’s battle with cancer received. Much was written concerning the player’s prognosis early on, but the media greatly respected his demand for privacy during the entire ordeal as it evolved. When the terrible news began having some upside, an entire city waited with baited breath on the most trivial of details concerning Koivu’s hoped – for comeback. Much of what became public discussion then, arrived in newspapers via the lips of players interviewed on the subject.
I am bringing all of this up, simply because, if you were not within the Montreal news zone at that particular time, it would have been difficult to grasp what Koivu’s comeback meant, in larger magnified terms.
The Canadiens media has a reputation for upturning the scum on a scoundrel, but it rarely receives due credit for covering great human interest and feel – good stories when they arise. In the spring of 2002 – in that regard – Koivu kept their keyboards humming.