After 1035 regular season games, all but seven of them with the Minnesota Wild, 37-year-old Mikko Koivu announced his retirement from the NHL. The move is a bit of a surprise after Koivu signed a one-year contract for $1.5 million with the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 10.
Koivu just didn’t feel that he could play at the level that he wanted. Every game had been an extra push to get ready and never was able to find his rhythm, which affected his performance and enjoyment for the game.
The decision was not an easy one for Koivu, who met with family, friends, his older brother Saku (18- year NHL player who retired in 2014) and the Blue Jackets general manager. With the support of everyone involved, the decision to retire was a bit easier for Koivu, who recorded 205 goals and 709 points. He became the first player to reach 1000 games with the Wild and is the franchise leader in points and assists.
Koivu actually was mulling retirement after leaving Minnesota at the end of last season as a free agent. However, the initial thought of playing with the Blue Jackets was appealing. Wild GM Bill Guerin made a statement congratulating Mikko Koivu on an excellent career, noting he was a fiery competition and fantastic captain on and off the ice. He assured that Koivu would be honored in front of the Minnesota fans in due time.
Despite a short period of time with the Blue Jackets, Koivu left an impact. Despite obviously slowing down on the ice, the team had a tremendous amount of respect and Koivu’s impact in the locker room was immeasurable.
Koivu’s career accomplishments include a silver medal at the 2006 Torino Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He also played in six IIHF World Championships and is fifth among Finnish NHL players in points and assists, and seventh in goals and games played. As for the Blue Jackets, they are sitting at 6-5-3, good for 4th in the Central Division. The retirement of Koivu doesn’t impact them on the ice heavily, since he was strictly a role player at this point. They will miss him the most in the locker room and playoff time, where experience is vital. That will be difficult to replace.