On Tuesday afternoon, longtime Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu announced his sudden retirement from the NHL after playing seven games with the Columbus Blue Jackets this year.
Koivu, 37, was selected sixth overall in 2001, would spend 15 years in St. Paul, and is expected to be the first Wild player to have his number retired. In his honor, it seems only fitting to take a jaunt down memory lane and remember what he meant — and will always mean — to Minnesota.
Koivu’s first NHL points came just two games into his professional career. After making his debut on Nov. 5, 2005, he scored his first goal the next day, contributing to a 4-3 win over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
The Ohlund Incident
On Nov. 16, 2007, the Wild faced off against the Vancouver Canucks, eventually losing 6-2. Late in the third period, Koivu received a two-minute penalty for elbowing Vancouver’s Mattias Ohlund. In retaliation, Ohlund took a swing at Koivu’s leg, breaking his fibula and rendering him out for the next 24 games.
The Rise of #AngryMikko
Five games after returning from his broken fibula in January 2008, Koivu and the Wild had a rematch with the Canucks on Jan. 21. In this revenge game, Koivu scored a goal that would be the eventual winner, and celebrated with what could be the greatest celly in Minnesota history. Koivu sniped the game winner past Roberto Luongo and wasted no time skating past the Vancouver bench, staring down every Canuck and releasing some pent up emotion for the whole arena to hear.
On Oct. 20, 2009, Koivu was named the Wild’s first permanent captain.
He and Andrew Brunette were announced as permanent alternate captains the year before while the Wild’s captaincy continued to rotate through players on a monthly basis. Koivu held the captaincy in October and November of 2008 as well as in January, March, and April of 2009. The rotation of leadership ended that October when Koivu was crowned permanent captain — a role he would hold for the next 11 years.
On Jan. 12, 2012, Koivu was selected to his first and only All-Star Game, but he did not play due to a left shoulder injury.
500th Career Point
On April 9, 2015, Koivu became the first Minnesota Wild player to reach 500 career points. In a 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators, Koivu added an assist on a Jason Zucker goal late in the third period to bring his career total to the 500 mark.
Koivu also holds the Wild’s record for most playoff games played (59), and his best playoff game came on April 22, 2016 against the Dallas Stars. The Wild were on the brink of elimination, down three games to one in the first round. In a 5-4 overtime win, Koivu scored the tying goal late in the third to knot the score at 4-4. Just a few minutes into overtime, Koivu scored again, keeping Minnesota’s playoff hopes alive for just a bit longer.
On Dec. 1, 2019, the captain not only played in his 1000th game for the Wild — becoming the first-ever player to do so in franchise history — but also picked up his 700th career point and scored the shootout winner.
Tied at two, the Wild and the Dallas Stars headed to overtime. As Minnesota’s fourth shooter, Koivu ended the game with his signature backhand shootout move, finishing off a career game.
Mr. Minnesota Wild
At the end of his 15 years with the Wild, Koivu found himself atop several franchise records. He’s the all-time franchise leader in points (709), games played (1,028), assists (504), shots (2,270), and shootout goals (42).
Koivu became the Wild’s all-time leading scorer when he recorded three points in a 6-0 win against the New York Islanders on March 18, 2014. He was coming off an ankle injury and entered the game on a seven-game scoring drought, but he ended the night with three assists and the new franchise record, passing Marian Gaborik. He would go on to produce 300 more points over the next six years.
Koivu became Minnesota’s leader in games played when he passed Nick Schultz’s mark of 743 on Feb. 28, 2016. By the time he left the Wild, he had played 1028 games in forest-green and Iron Range-red.
Koivu scored the final shootout goal of his career in his 1000th game with the Wild on Dec. 1, 2019. And of course, he did so in a way that only he does. Koivu’s trademark forehand, backhand, top-shelf shot mystified goalies for 15 years and created a highlight reel for the ages.
Including his seven-game stint playing for Columbus, Koivu retires with an impressive stat line: 711 points (206 goals, 505 assists) in 1,035 regular season games over 16 years. But even more so, he retires as the face of the Wild franchise since the beginning, and as a player who will be synonymous with the organization forever.
And now, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before we see No. 9 lifted to the rafters, marking one final record for Koivu and his time in Minnesota.