Born March 12, 1983 (age 28) in Turko, Finland
Center and captain of the Minnesota Wild
Koivu is from a hockey legend family–older brother Saku had the longest tenure as captain of the Canadiens, plus told cancer to go to hell as well–and as a member of the Wild, Mikko is carrying on the tradition of leadership. He started out playing in the Finnish junior leagues, moving to the SM-liiga as a 17-year-old and playing on the same team as Saku. When Minnesota drafted him in 2001, sixth overall, he stayed in Finland for three more seasons. He was planning to start with Minnesota in 2004-05, but then of course that season never happened, so instead he went for the Houston Aeros and delayed the NHL debut for one year more. He had 21 points in his rookie season and got a career-high 54 points in the next season. In his third season, he got hurt when Mattias Ohlund on the Canucks slashed him and broke a bone in his leg. However, just before his fourth year, he was named an alternate along with Andrew Brunette. At this time, the Wild had a tradition of naming captains only for a month at a time. However, Koivu served as captain for October and November, grist for the rumor mill until he was not named captain for December–though he was for January.
Koivu was voted best Finn on NHL.com and was the cover boy for Finland’s version of the NHL 10 video game. 2009 also saw him named the first permanent captain in the franchise’s history. He signed a seven-year contract extension that takes effect this season. Finnish men are also required to serve time in the military, so Koivu did his time between last season and this one. Talk about your summer vacation! When he’s not with the Wild, Koivu has represented Finland multiple times in international play and has medaled every single time: a gold and bronze in U18s, a silver and bronze in World Juniors, a gold, a silver and two bronzes in Worlds, and a silver and bronze in the Olympics.
It’s a small world: when he played for the Finnish TPS team, his father was the coach. Another fun fact: he owns a suite in the Wild’s home barn (along with Niklas Backstrom and Nick Schultz) and donates it to kids who have serious medical conditions. In fact, he also donated two rooms to the neurology and epilepsy unit at the Minnesota Children’s Hospital. What a quality guy. He’s quality on-ice too: he played 71 games, got 17 goals and 45 assists and spent just under an hour in the sin bin last season. I’m sure he’ll have another great season as the anchor of the Wild!