Believe it or not, there was a time when Wild captain Mikko Koivu wasn't the even-keeled, stoic leader he is today.
As he recounts in his career retrospective for The Players' Tribune, the rookie version of Koivu once scored and came into the locker room "with a huge grin on my face." Teammate Brian Rolston noticed and quickly corrected him.
"Hey, kid, never too low, never too high," Rolston said. "OK?"
It's a commonplace sports catchphrase, but Koivu truly embodies it. And it's that philosophy, he says, that's carried him from Turku, Finland to wearing the "C" for Minnesota during what so far has been a scintillating season.
In the article, the 33-year-old looks back at his childhood in Finland, his entry into the NHL following a lockout campaign spent with the Houston Aeros in 2004-05, raising his family here and growing into the man -- and player -- he is today. Here is an excerpt:
I'd sit there and watch [NHL Power Week, a 30-minute, Finnish NHL highlight show that aired Saturday mornings when Koivu was growing up] intently every week, hoping to catch a glimpse of Teemu Selänne, or Jari Kurri -- my heroes. The NHL wasn't as much of a mystery to me as it was to my friends, thanks to my brother, Saku. We went to Montreal to see him play for the Canadiens a few times after he was drafted in 1993. I knew even then that I wanted to do what he did.
My chance would come after that [2004-05] season in Houston. A new CBA was agreed upon, and I headed into training camp in 2005 with a lot of confidence. I felt I had a real opportunity to earn a spot with the Wild. Preseason can be a nerve-racking time for fringe players, but mine was going well. I was contributing on both ends of the ice, and the coaches were playing me a lot. Unfortunately, in the final preseason game, I injured my knee. I was going to be out for around a month.
Seriously, that was just the worst timing. I had been pretty sure I was going to make the team, but suddenly everything was all up in the air. It's a lot easier for a team to send an injured rookie down to the AHL and monitor him there during his recovery.
I didn't want to go back to Houston. I just wanted to start my NHL career.
My parents were flying to Minnesota for the start of the season. Since I was on injured reserve, I offered to pick them up from the airport. On my way out of my temporary apartment, I randomly decided to check my mailbox.
There was a letter from the Wild.
I had made the team. They told me I could start looking for a place to live, and that they looked forward to my return to the lineup. I shoved it in my pocket, drove to the airport and showed my parents as soon as I saw them.
I've been a Minnesotan ever since.
To read Koivu's entire story, please click here.