Last Saturday the Lynx retired Lindsay Whalen’s No. 13. Next Saturday, the Twins are retiring Joe Mauer’s No. 7. Two Minnesota legends. Two icons of their respective franchises getting their rightful recognition from their hometown clubs.
As Minnesota sports fans celebrate the respective careers of these great athletes, one can’t help but wonder when the Minnesota Wild will be raising a number to the rafters of Xcel Energy Center. Nearly 20 years into the franchise’s history, the Wild have yet to retire the number of an actual player, as only the No. 1 – which was retired prior to the franchise’s first ever home game in honor of the fans – remains the lone number to hang from the rafters.
Who are the candidates for the Wild to have their first number retirement ceremony? Let’s have a look at the options.
The front runner in the conversation is Koivu. The 2001 first-round draft pick has been a mainstay on the Wild since 2005, and now at age 36 appears to be headed towards closing out his career with the same team that drafted him. Koivu leads the Wild record books in games played, assists, points and power-play goals. Next year he is slated to become the first player in team history to hit the 1,000 games played mark and could possibly surpass Marian Gaborik for most goals in team history.
Koivu was named the first permanent captain in team history in 2009, and still to this date remains the team’s leader. The upcoming season could be the final one in the NHL for Koivu, as his future beyond his expiring contract remains to be seen. If that is the case, he very well could be seeing his No. 9 up in the rafters very shortly after that.
If the Wild feel Koivu does not meet the criteria for number retirement, the next in line for that honor will be Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The pair signed together on July 4, 2012 to matching 13-year deals. Now seven years into the contracts, Parise and Suter guided the Wild to six straight playoff appearances while making their marks individually on the Wild record books.
Parise ranks third in team history in goals and fourth in points, while Suter already ranks second in assists and seventh in points – tops among all defenseman in Wild history. Assuming the pair play out the remainder of their contracts with the Wild, they could add to their place in the record books. If the Wild were to retire both players’ numbers, would you have it done in the same ceremony – since they signed the same day – or split them up?
It is unlikely the Wild retire Gaborik’s No. 10 at this juncture, but one can certainly make a case for it. The franchise’s first draft pick/star/goal scorer remains tops in team history with 219 goals in nine seasons, and also remains second in team history in points. His nine hat tricks in nine seasons remains a high water mark, and that is not forgetting his memorable night of scoring five goals against the New York Rangers – whom he left the Wild for in 2009. Since the departure of Gaborik, the Wild have not been able to replace his goal scoring ability, despite several attempts to bring in players to do so.
As the 37-year-old Gaborik moves closer to retirement, could the Wild make amends and exercise their goal scoring demons by retiring the number of the franchise’s first star?