Mitchell in February 2008.
|Born||April 23, 1977
Port McNeill, BC, CAN
|6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
208 lb (94 kg; 14 st 12 lb)
New Jersey Devils
|NHL Draft||199th overall, 1996
New Jersey Devils
|Playing career||2000 – present|
Willie Reid Mitchell (born April 23, 1977) is a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman. He is currently playing as an alternate captain (although during games, he is the de facto captain owing to goalie restrictions placed on Roberto Luongo, who is officially in that role for the Canucks) for the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League (NHL) and is known primarily as a shutdown defenceman. Mitchell has previously played with the New Jersey Devils (with whom he was originally drafted), the Minnesota Wild and the Dallas Stars.
As a junior hockey player, Mitchell competed in several leagues. Growing up in British Columbia, he played one season for the Kelowna Spartans of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) in 1994–95, before joining the Melfort Mustangs of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). In his last of two seasons with Melfort, Mitchell was honoured with the Top Defenceman Award and was named to the SJHL First All-Star Team.
Crossing the border, Mitchell then played two seasons in the ECAC with Clarkson University. In his first season, he was named co-Rookie of the Year with fellow future NHL player Erik Cole. In 1999, he was also named an ECAC First Team All-Star and a NCAA East Second Team All-American.
After being drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 8th round, 199th overall, in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, he made his NHL debut in 1999–00. However, in just less than two seasons with New Jersey, in which he played primarily in Albany with the Devils' American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild, on March 4, 2001, for defenceman Sean O'Donnell.
With the Wild, Mitchell became a full-time NHLer and helped the club to the semi-finals in 2003, his third year with the club. After an inactive season in 2004–05 due to the lockout, Mitchell returned to Minnesota for a fifth season after re-signing to a one-year contract. In December 2004, he was named team captain as part of the Wild's monthly rotating captaincy (he was then succeeded by Brian Rolston in February). However, as Mitchell's contract was set to expire at the end of the season and it became apparent the team would not make the playoffs, on March 9, 2006, he was traded away to the Dallas Stars as a rental player in exchange for defencemen Martin Skoula and Shawn Belle. Mitchell closed the season playing 16 games and one playoff round with Dallas before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the off-season.
As a result, on July 1, 2006, the Vancouver Canucks of his home province signed Mitchell to a four-year, $14 million contract. Coupled with the acquisition of goaltender Roberto Luongo, new head coach Alain Vigneault employed a defence-first system that Mitchell excelled in. He helped the team to the second round of the 2007 playoffs, where they were defeated by the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
During his second season with Vancouver, he missed ten games with a fractured vertebra. The injury was sustained on December 31, 2007, in a loss to the Calgary Flames, while trying to dodge a check. However, Mitchell continued to play with the injury for nine games afterwards. At the end of 2007–08, he was awarded the first of two consecutive Babe Pratt Trophies as the Canucks' top defenceman.
With the departure of long-time Canucks captain Markus Näslund to free agency in the off-season, Mitchell was considered a leading candidate for captaincy. However, on September 30, 2008, the Canucks surprised everyone by making team MVP Roberto Luongo the first goaltender to be a captain since 1947–48. Mitchell was, instead, named alternate captain along with Ryan Kesler and Mattias Ohlund. Due to Luongo's limitations as a goaltender, Mitchell was designated the captain's traditional role of disputing calls by the officials and relaying messages to the coach.
On February 17, 2009, before a game against the Calgary Flames, Mitchell was charged by Flames head coach Mike Keenan for playing with an illegally long hockey stick. In response to Keenan's claim, Mitchell asserted that he uses the maximum length allowed for players under 6-foot-6, which is 63 inches. Mitchell recorded career-highs in 2008–09 with three goals, 20 assists and 23 points. He added two assists in the post-season as he helped the Canucks advance to the second round for the second time in three years, where they were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
Early on in the 2009–10 season, Mitchell delivered a devastating open-ice hit to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews in the two teams' first game against each other since the 2009 playoffs. Mitchell had just exited the penalty box when he caught Toews with his head down receiving a pass in the neutral zone; the hit was deemed legal as Mitchell checked Toews with his shoulder. Toews subsequently left the game and was sidelined with concussion-like symptoms.
|Competitor for Canada|
|Gold||2004 Czech Republic|
Mitchell has made one international appearance for Team Canada in his career. As a member of the Minnesota Wild, he competed in the 2004 World Championships in the Czech Republic. He helped Team Canada to a gold medal, defeating Sweden 5–3 in the final.
Willie Mitchell was married in the summer of 2006 and resides in his hometown of Port McNeill during the summer, where he fishes avidly. During the hockey season, Mitchell resides in the Yaletown neighbourhood in downtown Vancouver.
In the Summer of 2009, Willie Mitchell "threw the first pitch at a Seattle-Blue Jays Game at Safeco Field"
|1998–99||Albany River Rats||AHL||6||1||3||4||3||29||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1999–00||Albany River Rats||AHL||63||5||14||19||-4||71||5||1||2||3||0||4|
|1999–00||New Jersey Devils||NHL||2||0||0||0||1||0||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|2000–01||Albany River Rats||AHL||41||3||13||16||2||94||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|2000–01||New Jersey Devils||NHL||16||0||2||2||0||29||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Babe Pratt Trophy
|Minnesota Wild team captain
|Current team captains in the National Hockey League|
|Atlantic||J. Langenbrunner (New Jersey)||D. Weight (N.Y. Islanders)||C. Drury (N.Y. Rangers)||M. Richards (Philadelphia)||S. Crosby (Pittsburgh)|
|Northeast||Z. Chára (Boston)||C. Rivet (Buffalo)||vacant (Montreal)||D. Alfredsson (Ottawa)||vacant (Toronto)|
|Southeast||vacant (Atlanta)||E. Staal (Carolina)||B. McCabe (Florida)||V. Lecavalier (Tampa Bay)||A. Ovechkin (Washington)|
|Central||J. Toews (Chicago)||R. Nash (Columbus)||N. Lidström (Detroit)||J. Arnott (Nashville)||E. Brewer (St. Louis)|
|Northwest||J. Iginla (Calgary)||A. Foote (Colorado)||E. Moreau (Edmonton)||M. Koivu (Minnesota)||R. Luongo* (Vancouver)|
|Pacific||S. Niedermayer (Anaheim)||B. Morrow (Dallas)||D. Brown (Los Angeles)||S. Doan (Phoenix)||R. Blake (San Jose)|
|Notes||*As per NHL rules, Luongo cannot wear the captain's "C" because he is a goaltender, nor can he perform the captain's duties during games. Willie Mitchell handles the captain's duties during games.|