There was something special in the way that Montreal Canadiens fans embraced Saku Koivu.
The former Canadiens captain, who retired after finishing his career with Anaheim, will get one more chance to feel the love when he is feted ahead of a game against the Ducks on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
"I always felt that I was respected as a player and for the way I played the game, but what makes me feel humble was the way I was loved by the fans," the 40-year-old Koivu said. "Sometimes you think about why it happened, why they took me as their own.
"You can't explain it, but there has been a real, unique bond between the fans in Montreal and myself. They've shown their passion and love and support throughout the years and really, it's been amazing."
It was a much happier occasion for Koivu, the gifted centre from Finland who lived through soaring highs and terrible lows in his 13 seasons with the Canadiens from 1995 to 2009.
Never moreso than in the 2001-02 season, when he was diagnosed with abdominal cancer at the start of training camp. After a season of debilitating treatments, he shocked the hockey world by returning with three games left in the regular season.