Columbus Blue Jackets: Mikko Koivu walks off into the sunset following bombshell retirement

Mikko Koivu has called it a day.

In what was a bombshell announcement, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced earlier today that veteran forward Mikko Koivu has opted to retire immediately, despite signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the franchise in the offseason following 15 years with the Minnesota Wild.

It was a huge shock to many in the National Hockey League and the decision appeared to completely come out of the blue, with Koivu stating that he wasn’t happy with his level of play this season and, as a result, decided that it would be in the best interests of all concerned to hang up the skates.

Koivu had two points (1 G, 1 A) in seven games with a -2 rating for the Columbus Blue Jackets while averaging 12:28 of total ice time and, while it was not the finish to a stellar career the Finnish forward would have wanted nor deserved, we are instead going to focus on the positives and the many memories that he will leave behind.

After all, Koivu will be remembered for his long service with the Minnesota Wild than he will for his quick cup of coffee with the Columbus Blue Jackets and, given how this has all panned out, it is somewhat sad that the veteran didn’t get the chance to finish his lengthy career in the NHL with the team that drafted him sixth overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

Mikko Koivu (9)

Mikko Koivu #9 of the Minnesota Wild (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Mikko Koivu calls time on a long and stellar career in the NHL

With the Wild only established the year prior, Mikko Koivu very quickly became the first official face of this franchise in the State of Hockey, becoming the heartbeat and the true leader of the organization on and off the ice and in the wider community. He was the perfect role model for young players and for hockey crazed fans in Minnesota, not putting a foot wrong when it came to representing the franchise and growing the Minnesota Wild brand.

A gritty hard-nosed player, Koivu wasn’t the flashiest player or the most-skilled, and some Wild fans probably would have liked to see more offense, but the left shot played the game with a burning and fierce intensity, he gave it his all every single shift and he also left every ounce of blood, sweat and tears out on the ice.

Koivu set the example and the tone for his teammates and he was always trusted to go out and try and shutdown the other teams’ top lines and star players, a job he took pride in and relished doing. Basically, Koivu was the perfect leader, he was the perfect Captain, and he was the perfect player for a hockey market like Minnesota.

For those who, like myself, love the nitty gritty of hockey, Koivu was always a lot of fun to watch because he never gave up on the puck and he never stopped battling in the corners, in the dirty areas or in the slot area, while he was a beast in the faceoff circle with a career win percentage of 54.1 percent.

Mikko Koivu (9)

Mikko Koivu #9 of the Minnesota Wild. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

And, while he won’t go down as the deadliest scorer in the rich history of the NHL, there is no downplaying Mikko Koivu’s skills when it came to the shootout, with the pivot recording 42 goals in the shootout, which was a franchise record. The 37-year-old was famous for going to his signature forehand, deke and backhand move and it consistently bamboozled netminders.

The only player to skate in 1,000 games for the Minnesota Wild, the all-time leader in regular-season games played (1,028), the all-time leader in points (709) and assists (504), while he is second in goals (205) behind Marian Gaborik (219). Koivu also featured in 59 career Stanley Cup Playoffs games for the Wild, putting up 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points. Also a winner of a Silver and Bronze Medal with Team Finland at the 2006 Torino Olympics and 2010 Vancouver Olympics respectively, Koivu certainly has an impressive resume as he calls time on his playing career.

So, overall, while it wasn’t the ending to his career he would have wanted and while he leaves the game without a Stanley Cup to his name, Mikko Koivu was one hell of a leader and a player for the Minnesota Wild, helping to really establish that franchise in the State of Hockey and his legacy with the Wild is an incredible one. He played the game of hockey the right way, he never took a shift off, he was a fierce competitor in all three zones, he was a model professional, a perfect role model for his younger peers and there is no doubt that, when is all said and done, Mikko Koivu’s famous No. 9 jersey will be the first jersey to be hung from the rafters at Xcel Energy Center. And there will be no more deserving honor for a player who represented his franchise and the National Hockey League with distinction.