Mikko Koivu almost made it through his whole speech without crying. Emphasis on almost.
After more than 10 minutes of thanking everyone that made an impact on his career, the longtime Wild captain locked eyes with his children, telling them, “You are the greatest gift in my life.”
He lauded how his youngest son Oskar lights up every room he walks into. He thanked his middle son Kasper for letting him be his youth hockey coach. He praised his oldest daughter Sofie for being a good role model to her brothers.
In that moment, the usually stoic Koivu finally lost it, wiping tears from his eyes as the crowd erupted into a deafening roar. That broke the dam, and a few minutes later, Koivu bawled as he watched the No. 9 banner ascend into the rafters.
It was an unforgettable experience on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center as the 38-year-old Koivu became the first player in franchise history to have his jersey number retired. No Wild player will ever wear the No. 9 again. And rightfully so.
Mikko Koivu’s Number 9 is raised up to the rafters at @XcelEnergyCtr where it will forever live in #mnwild history. #9foralltime pic.twitter.com/4fezYz3S2f
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) March 13, 2022
With green carpet lining part of the ice surface, wild play-by-play announcer Anthony LaPanta emceed the spectacle, tossing it over to owner Craig Leipold, then general manager Bill Guerin, who presented Koivu with a custom Rolex watch.
The other gifts included a framed montage of Koivu’s playing career, presented by former Wild teammates Niklas Backstrom and Kyle Brodziak, and a set of golf clubs, presented by Jared Spurgeon, Marcus Foligno and Matt Dumba.
As the crowd fittingly erupted into a “MIKKO KOIVU” chant, the man of the hour took center stage, delivering an emotional 15-minute speech that left many with watery eyes.
“Having my jersey number retired by the Minnesota Wild is a greater honor than I know how to say in English or in Finnish,” Koivu said. “I have so many great memories of playing in this building and living in the Twin Cities. And it’s all because of the great people here in Minnesota.”
In that same breath, Koivu sported some showmanship, noting that even though everyone likes to say they have the best fans in the world, “There is only one State of Hockey.” He had the fans in the palm of his hand the rest of the way.
There was also a hilarious moment early in which Koivu thanked the Nashville Predators for being a part of the night, even though former Wild fan favorite Mikael Granlund was the only player sitting on the visitors bench.
Some other highlights of Koivu’s speech included him thanking the former Wild owner Bob Naegele Jr., who brought the NHL back to Minnesota, and former Wild general manager Doug Risebrough, who drafted him No. 6 overall in the 2001 draft.
As for former teammates, while Koivu note there were too to thank, in a very classic move, he singled out the late Derek Boogaard and Pavol Demitra. It was a touching tribute to a couple of former teammates that died tragically.
As the pregame ceremony wound to a close, Koivu turned his attention back to the fans, emphasizing that they will always have a special place in his heart.
“Thank you,” Koivu said. “I love you all.”