ST. PAUL — Wild captain Mikko Koivu stood stoically after the loss — like he always does — only this time felt different to everyone watching.
His final shift was an 11-second nightmare on Friday, Aug. 7, that ended when Vancouver defenseman Chris Tanev whistled a puck into the back of the net. That sealed a 5-4 overtime loss to the Canucks and officially knocked the Wild out of the postseason.
It happened so fast that Koivu didn’t know how to react.
He rested his chin on his stick in a state of disbelief, taking a few moments to drink in his surroundings. He then led the Wild in the handshake line, congratulating every Canucks player that passed by.
He eventually skated toward the bench, waiting for each of his teammates to leave the ice in front of him before finally leaving the ice himself.
That might’ve been it for for the 37-year-old Koivu. It sure as heck looked like it.
That said, Koivu isn’t ready to commit to hanging up the skates. Not yet at least.
“It’s still too early right after the season to be making a decision basically about the rest of my life,” Koivu said. “It’s a such a big decision that there’s no way I’m ready to do that right now.”
He plans to lean heavily on his older brother, Saku, who already has navigated retirement. He also needs to chat with general manager Bill Guerin to see if the Wild even have interest in bringing him back.
“I’m sure we’ll sit down here next week or so and touch base with everything,” Koivu said. “I’m sure they’re not ready to make their decisions on next year’s team. The playoffs are still going. There’s so much unknown right now for every team.”
If the Wild decide they don’t want to re-sign him, that could make Koivu’s decision fairly easy. He’s already said he has no interest playing in anything but a Wild sweater, and thus, would likely retire if that wasn’t an option next season.
He would do so as the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (1,028), assists (504), points (709), and many other statistical categories.
If the Wild decide they do want to re-sign him, that would force Koivu to weigh the pros and cons of coming back. He still enjoys the sport, and said if it was simply about playing games, he would be more apt to return.
It goes beyond that for Koivu, though, especially with a sea of unknowns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s the whole package that I have to think about,” Koivu said. “How is it going to go from here? When are they going to be able to start the season? Are we going to be able to play at our rinks with fans? I think it’s all that that I’m trying to think and stay patient with and then make my decision.”
There’s also the reality that Koivu isn’t the same player he once was and probably never will be again. He already had to accept a new role on the team this season, playing fewer minutes than ever before.
While he admitted that was hard to stomach early on, Koivu said his reaction actually proved to himself that he could still play if he wanted to.
“If you don’t feel you want to play more, then I don’t think you should play the game at that point,” Koivu said. “It’s good to have that fire. You also realize the reality and things like that. That’s the way it usually goes once guys get a little bit older.”
No matter what happens in the coming weeks, Koivu said he’d like to stay around the game in some capacity.
“I think it’s something that’s it’s natural to think about it,” he said. “Is it coaching or management? Is it something outside of hockey? I don’t really have an answer for that. I’m sure it’ll be more clear once I kind of put some more thought to it. It’s been part of my life my whole life, so I don’t see myself not being involved with hockey in the future.”