EDMONTON, Alberta – Mikko Koivu didn’t know what to think.
One shot, just 11 seconds into overtime, and the Wild was finished.
The months of uncertainty and then training for a comeback, all of it culminated in waiting to recognize the Canucks one by one once they were done celebrating their 5-4 victory in Game 4 Friday at Rogers Place that sealed their 3-1 edge in the best-of-five series and knocked the Wild out of the Stanley Cup qualifiers.
“All of a sudden, it was just done,” Koivu said.
After he got through the handshake line, the captain stayed on the ice — hanging back until he could approach the Vancouver coaches and acknowledge them, too.
Then, finally, he left the ice.
Whether or not he’ll get back on it, with the Wild, as an NHLer or even simply as a pro hockey player, is yet to be determined.
“I think it’s still too early right after the season to [make] decisions on and basically about the rest of my life,” Koivu said on a video chat Sunday, when the Wild held its season-ending availability with players. “So, I think you gotta be really careful or I need to be really careful, especially with the game and also what do I want from the future and then go from there.
“It’s a such a big decision that there’s no way I’m ready to do that right now.”
Where the 37-year-old is at physically and mentally will help Koivu figure out what to do now that his two-year, $11 million contract is expiring.
Although he “felt good through the training camp and also in games,” he wants to wait a couple of weeks to see where his head is since he’s confident that’s when his mind will be clearer.
But he also has to check in with the Wild to gauge its plans.
At the trade deadline, when Koivu declined to waive his no-movement clause to potentially facilitate a trade elsewhere, he said remaining with the Wild, where he’s spent his entire NHL career, mattered most to him. How the team feels will play a role.
“I haven’t talked to [General Manager Bill Guerin] yet,” Koivu said. “I’m sure we’ll sit down here next week or so and touch base with everything. 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 and all that.
“Of course, it has a big impact on my future — what they want to do. Then I have to make my decision from there.”
Although he was still used in key situations in the playoffs, getting matched up against the Canucks’ top line and tasked with that opening shift in overtime, Koivu slid down the depth chart this season and was centering the fourth line.
That change was tough for the center to take, but he understood it.
“It’s also good to have that fire and wanting more,” said Koivu, who went pointless in the playoffs after recording four goals and 17 assists in 55 regular-season games while averaging the lowest minutes (15:34) since his rookie season. “But I think you also realize the reality and things like that. That’s the way it usually goes that once you get a little bit older, you’ve got to accept the role. That’s going to be one of the things for next year, too, that’s something I want to be clear with going into the season. If I do play, that’s fair game both ways. I think that only helps the player but also the team and the coaching staff with the minutes there as well.”
Still, Koivu’s considering other factors, such as the coronavirus pandemic, when next season might start and whether fans will be allowed to attend.
“It’s all that that I’m trying to think [about] and stay patient with and then make my decision from there,” Koivu said.
While he’s not sure when he’ll return to his native Finland, he will lean on his family during this process including his brother Saku. Saku has been in the same spot, ultimately choosing to retire in 2014 following 18 seasons in the NHL.
“You have to make the decision on your own and how you feel,” said Koivu, who holds several franchise records and earlier this season became the 55th player in NHL history to play his first 1,000 games with the same team. “But for sure, the people that are close to you, the impact that they have, it’s going to be big to have that support and trying to do the decision as good as you can for the future.”
What he is sure of, though, is that he won’t leave the game for good.
“It’s been part of my life my whole life,” Koivu said. “So, I don’t see myself not being involved with hockey in the future.”