The No. 9 Mikko Koivu wore with the Wild is about to become off limits, but Koivu may have to consider making an exception at some point.

Already, his 6-year-old son Kasper has inquired about the number's availability for when he suits up for the Wild.

"We'll talk about that then," Koivu said with a smile. "Right now, we're in Eden Prairie hockey, so we'll go step by step."

As for his own career, Koivu is no longer skating in the NHL, but his legacy continues to evolve.

On Sunday, he will be the first player in Wild history to have his jersey number retired, ahead of puck drop against Nashville at Xcel Energy Center. It's a rare tribute to a collaboration that made Koivu synonymous with the Wild and vice versa.

"It's an amazing accomplishment," said Koivu's former teammate Wes Walz. "For Mikko to be the first guy, that makes sense. It just makes sense."

Identical identities

Koivu wasn't part of the Wild's inaugural lineup when the team debuted as an expansion club in 2000.

He also didn't participate in the organization's best season, the run to the Western Conference finals in 2003.

But once he arrived, the center embarked on a journey that helped define the budding franchise.

"I enjoyed the work part, the preparation, the tough workouts, things like that," Koivu said. "It was just kind of natural to me. But at the same time, I was trying to teach that for the young kids coming to the team and the organization."

After getting drafted sixth overall in 2001 out of his native Finland, Koivu joined the Wild in 2005 while Jacques Lemaire was behind the bench.

While Koivu already had a knack for a sturdy style, he became even more of a two-way specialist with a team-first outlook under Lemaire's tutelage. And as the seasons piled up, that shutdown strategy emerged as the Wild's identity, with Koivu its front man.

"He epitomizes what the Minnesota Wild are and how they play and how they conduct their business," said Florida interim coach Andrew Brunette, who played three seasons with Koivu before working in the Wild's front office and as an assistant. "He's been the face of the franchise for so long."

Record setter

With that mantle, Koivu assembled an impressive resume.

Not only is he the franchise's all-time leader in several categories, including games (1,028), assists (504) and points (709), but Koivu was chosen as the first full-time captain in team history on Oct. 20, 2009.

He represented the Wild at the All-Star Game, was a Selke Trophy finalist as the league's best defensive forward and became just the 55th player in NHL history to log his first 1,000 games with the same team. Koivu and his brother Saku, who will be in attendance Sunday along with Koivu's parents, are the sixth set of brothers to each tally 1,000 games.

"He's always had that business-like focus before a game," Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson said. "His game was very cerebral. X's and O's, he's aware of that. But he played more on instinct. He just played."

Full circle

After 15 seasons, the Wild moved on from Koivu by deciding not to re-sign him in 2020 as the team dissolved its longtime core in a roster shakeup.

Koivu eventually signed with Columbus but retired in February 2021 after only seven games.

Since then, he's reengaged with the Wild while also getting involved with Team Finland and helping with Kasper's youth team. The 39-year-old father of three continues to live in the Twin Cities and is a member of the Children's Foundation Board; in 2011, he sponsored two private patient rooms at Children's Minnesota in St. Paul.

That community involvement, along what he achieved on the ice, is what makes Koivu proud of his tenure with the Wild.

"[I] just appreciate everything I've been able to experience here," he said.

To the rafters

But the story isn't over, with Koivu back in the spotlight for the next chapter.

He's humbled to have his No. 9 commemorated inside Xcel Energy Center, and to be the first recognized that way feels surreal to him.

"I'm sure it's going to be emotional but also hopefully it'll be a fun night for all of us — for me, teammates, coaches, family, and fans," Koivu said. "That's something I'm excited for."

Koivu and the Wild are embedded in each other's past.

This memento links them into the future, too.

"I was very proud to be a member of the Minnesota Wild," Koivu said, "and wanted to make sure I did my part so it continues to be strong and get better."