Jukka Koivu was a pretty lucky guy. He played briefly in the Finnish Elite League in the early 70's before going into coaching. He coached TPS' junior teams, including a season as the bench boss for Mikko. He was an advisor at the Finnish Sports Institute. Now, he serves as a coaching advisor for Lukko of the SM-Liiga as well as the color commentator for the Finnish National Network.
Not only was Koivu lucky in his field of work, he was lucky enough that the genes his sons inherited were better than his. He was father to a son in the early 70's, a son that would go onto become one of the all-time greats in Finnish Hockey History and probably the 4th greatest Finn to ever play in the NHL. Saku Koivu was gifted with great offensive ability, smooth hands and outstanding vision and used all of them to become an all-star in the NHL. He was also a great leader, captaining the legendary Montreal Canadiens during his lengthy stay there.
That wasn't enough for the Koivu patriach. In the early 80's he had to father another son. One that would follow Saku's trail to the NHL quite closely. Mikko Koivu, like his brother, played two years of Liiga hockey, completed his compulsory military service and finished his schooling before heading to North America. Once there, Mikko blazed his own trail.
Mikko has many of the same traits as Saku, but Mikko is bigger, much bigger by NHL standards. He's four inches taller and twenty-two pounds heavier than his brother and he's got an intensity on the ice that Saku never exhibited.
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Saku came into the league as something of an offensive phenom, quickly grabbing headlines in the hockey-mad city of Montreal. Mikko came into the league as a defense-first center, known for his tight checking and tenacious defense, like most Finns. He came into the defense-first Jacquies Lemaire system of the Minnesota Wild and was used primarily as a checking line center and penalty killer in his early career. He thrived in that role and Lemaire gradually gave Koivu more responsibilities, including hard matching the opposition's best line. Koivu's game grew each year and last year Koivu was finally given the role of the first line center in a power-versus-power system.
#9 / Center / Minnesota Wild
Mar 12, 1983
|GP||G||A||P||EV +/-||EV +/- 60||EV Rk||QC Rk ||QT Rk ||Corsi RK ||ZS Rk ||SHG|
|2007 - Mikko Koivu||57||11
|2008 - Mikko Koivu||79||20||47||67||+3||.05
|2009 - Mikko Koivu||77||20||48||68||+3||.17
Although he's been asked to provide the offense for the Wild in addition to shutting down the opposition's best, he's delivered with the same consistent results. He takes on the toughs and outscores them He's increased his offensive output. He's increased his playmaking and he continues to log huge minutes on the penalty kill. This season he was named the first permanent captain in franchise history, a selection that was a long time coming.
He's underpaid, Koivu will make only $3,250,000 this season, and underrated everywhere outside of the state of Minnesota. But within the State of Hockey Koivu is beloved. He may not be the greatest player in the history of the franchise yet (Marian Gaborik is a pretty good player) but should he re-sign with Minnesota at the end of next season, there is little doubt that he will eventually become the greatest to ever lace up skates for the Wild.
There is also little doubt that Mikko will surpass Saku as the greatest Koivu ever to play the game. Given the tendency of the Koivu genes to improve with time, perhaps Jukka should think about fathering another hockey prodigy.