Imagine being 13-years old and hearing the word ‘cancer’ for the first time in your life. It hasn’t struck home, yet, except on the television set hearing that the Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
You know what cancer is, but at 13 and never truly exposed to it, you don’t fully understand it. Growing up a Pittsburgh Penguins fan you know the stories of Mario Lemieux and his comeback, but was too young to remember when it happened, so this is your first encounter seeing a player in the NHL deal with the deadly disease.
You watch his comeback, you still can’t fully grasp it, but think it is the coolest thing in the world to see someone be able to come back to play the sport you both love after going through what he had to.
Fast forward to now, that person is grown up and following his dream of writing about the sport he loves, the one where he has so many childhood stories of why it became his passion, the Koivu story being one of them.
At 25-years old now, he now can fully grasp the situation that he once couldn’t get his complete hand around. After losing his Grandfather to Leukemia two years before, he has learned through watching a person he held dearly slip away while battling courageously.
Playing for the Anaheim Ducks since 2009, Koivu has made only one other appearance in Montreal, his second home, and for the second and quite possibly last time, Koivu was met with cheers and applause like he never left the city.
Stories like Koivu’s is what give these athletes larger than life status with fans, especially ones like myself who have seen a person close to pass away due to cancer. In the days where athletes are in the news nine times out of ten for something they did wrong, even though this took place over ten years ago, it does the sporting world good to remind everyone the strength of the human spirit and the bond that is created between the players and the fans.
Even though my grandfather never got the same attention Koivu got, what he has done since he has gone into remission has spoken volumes for the many that will never get a voice.
Thank you Saku, you are a great example to follow, and give the ones suffering from cancer and their families hope that it is possible to get better.
Anthony Murphy is the Co-Editor at Pucks Of A Feather. You can follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.