It's been a season of milestones for Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, and on Sunday against the Florida Panthers, Koivu's name will again jump to the top of the Wild's record books.
Koivu enters Sunday tied with Nick Schultz atop Minnesota's all-time games played list. A mainstay in the Wild's lineup, Koivu is in his 11th season in the State of Hockey, will become Minnesota's true iron man during the Wild's Sunday matinee.
Earlier this season, the Wild honored Schultz — now a member of the Philadelphia Flyers — for approaching his 1,000th career game. Schultz accomplished the milestone two games after his return to Saint Paul in January.
When Koivu played game number 742 on Thursday, it was against Schultz, his longtime friend and former teammate, a night before he tied the record playing against the Washington Capitals.
"[Schultz] mentioned [the record] to me actually last night, when I was paying for his dinner again," Koivu said prior to inching closer to the milestone. "I don't think you really think about that stuff. You're trying to stay in the moment, and just make sure that you're ready to go day-in and day-out.
"But for sure that, when I first came in the league, and Nick was there for a lot of years before I got in, and he was one of the veterans, and a guy that I always looked up to."
Now, Koivu is the benchmark for Minnesota hockey, creating his own records, and captaining a team that began the season with 11 players 25 years or younger on its roster.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Koivu is one of 16 active players to have debuted in 2005, and remained with the same team. He's second among all active Finnish-born NHL players in games played in league history. Simply put, Koivu has played lots of hockey since his first game on Nov. 5, 2005, and has done so in its entirety in Minnesota.
That also calls to attention that Koivu is one of the longest-tenured professional athletes in Minnesota. Joe Mauer has been with the Twins since 2004, but no other has called Minnesota home longer than Koivu.
Here are some key dates and numbers that define Koivu's time with the Minnesota Wild:
- June 23rd, 2001: The Minnesota Wild selects Koivu with the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Koivu became the 10th player ever selected by the Wild.
- November 5th, 2005: Koivu makes his NHL debut, playing 20 shifts and 13:01 against the San Jose Sharks in a 3-1 Wild victory.
- November 6th, 2005: One night after making his NHL debut, Koivu scores his first goal in 4-3 Wild victory against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
- December 26th, 2006: Koivu skates in his 100th career game, a 4-3 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs
- April 11, 2007: Koivu plays in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game, against the Anaheim Ducks.
- October 11th-16th, 2008: Koivu registers nine points (1-8=9) in the Wild’s first three games of the season, becoming the first NHL player to record nine or more points in his team’s first three games of the season since Adam Oates in 1993-94.
- October 20th, 2009: The Wild names Koviu its first full-time captain in team history.
- May 15th, 2011: Koivu captains Finalnd to a 6-1 win against Sweden in the gold medal game at the IIHF World Championship.
- October 5th, 2013: Koivu becomes Minnesota’s all-time franchise leader in power-play points with a power-play assist against Anaheim.
- March 18th, 2014: With three assists in a 6-0 win against the New York Islanders, Koivu surpasses Marian Gaborik as the franchise's all-time leading scorer at 438 points.
- March 28th, 2015: Koivu records three assists, his 115th multi-point game, passing Gaborik for the most such games in Wild history.
- April 9th, 2015: With an assist against the Nashville Predators, Koivu records his 500th career NHL point, the first player in Wild history to do so, and the 10th Finnish player in league history to reach the mark.
- April 16th, 2015: Koivu skates in his 30th career playoff game, surpassing Gaborik for most playoff games played in franchise history.
- November 21st, 2015: Mikko Koivu skates in his 700th NHL game, against the Nashville Predators, tallying an assist, three shots on goal, and winning 13-of-19 faceoffs (68.4%).
- February 26th, 2015: Ties Nick Schultz for the all-time games played record (743) in Minnesota Wild history.