After years of being soiled by a not-so-dearly-departed underachiever, the shine is back on jersey number 11 for the Montreal Canadiens courtesy of hard-working rookie Brendan Gallagher, who honoured tradition by giving up number 73 to accomodate reacquired veteran Michael Ryder. If I had my way, Gallagher would have to find yet another number when Saku Koivu retires from the NHL, because I strongly believe that Koivu is worthy of having number 11 retired in his honour. We put that out there as our Twitter Question of the Day on the TSN 690 morning show last week, and most listeners felt Koivu's body of hockey work in Montreal doesn't justify retiring his number. My case is based on Koivu on and off the ice. The courage he demonstrated during his well-documented battle with cancer and his tireless charity work for cancer research and treatment represent a unique and exceptional legacy. That's more than good enough for me, and for Susan Farley, who gets the last word in this e-mail she sent me last week.
Your Twitter question yesterday touched a deep-down beautiful chord with me. I'm not on Twitter so this message is coming a day late. May I tell you a short story? I grew up with four brothers, mom and dad in the 60s. Sports reigned in our house. Hockey Night in Canada was...well, just about the best night of the week! But back then, I wanted nothing to do with any of it...hockey, or football for that matter. (Think of the glorious years, and the players, I missed out on...) Those growing-up years flew by as years will always do, and we're fast-forwarding now to the night of April 9, 2002, the Molson Centre, when Saku Koivu returned in triumph to the team. I was watching that game, glued to the TV as the captain spun around in small circles on the ice, again and again, raising his stick in salute to the fans, his shiny, bald head gleaming in the lights. The 8-minute ovation for this courageous man swelled in undulating waves, unstoppable like the ocean tide upon the shore. I thought they would never, ever end. And I was hooked. I've been a hockey (and football) fan since then. It happened to me just like that. And I thank Saku Koivu. The way I see things, it was a disgrace how he was allowed to disappear from the team, from the city, from our lives without a backward glance his way, without a proper thank you. The legacy he has left is a tapestry of rich, textured, vibrant threads woven into the life of Montreal, and we are all the richer for him having been here.
So, to answer your Twitter question of yesterday, Ted: Yes, I think Saku Koivu's #11 should be retired.
I listen to you three guys every day...love the show!