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Willie Reid Mitchell (born April 23, 1977) is a Canadianmarker professional ice hockey defenceman. He is currently playing 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.

Playing career

As a junior hockey player, Mitchell competed in several leagues. Growing up in British Columbiamarker, 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 Universitymarker. In his first season, he was named co-Rookie of the Year with fellow future NHL 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.

Willie Mitchell during the Canucks jersey launch in 2007.
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.

Mitchell in November 2007.
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.

International play

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 Republicmarker. He helped Team Canada to a gold medal, defeating Sweden 5–3 in the final.

Personal life

Willie Mitchell was married in the summer of 2006 and resides in his hometown of Port McNeillmarker during the summer, where he fishes avidly. During the hockey season, Mitchell resides in the Coal Harbourmarker neighbourhood in downtown Vancouvermarker.

His grandfather, Les Mitchell played in the West Coast Hockey League (WCHL) and earned a tryout at the New York Rangers camp during the Original Six era.

In the Summer of 2009, Willie Mitchell "threw the first pitch at a Seattle-Blue Jays Game at Safeco Field"


  • Named to the ECAC Second-Team All-Conference Team in 1998.
  • Named to the NCAA East Second All-American Team in 1999.
  • Named to the ECAC East Second All-American Team in 1999.
  • Won the Babe Pratt Trophy (Canucks' best defenceman) in 2008 in 2009.

Career statistics

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM GP G A Pts +/- PIM
1995–96 Melfort Mustangs SJHL 19 2 6 8 0 14 0 2 2 12
1996–97 Melfort Mustangs SJHL 64 14 42 56 227 4 0 1 1 23
1997–98 Clarkson Universitymarker ECAC 34 9 17 26 105
1998–99 Clarkson University ECAC 34 10 19 29 40
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
2000–01 Minnesota Wild NHL 17 1 7 8 4 11
2001–02 Minnesota Wild NHL 68 3 10 13 -16 68
2002–03 Minnesota Wild NHL 69 2 12 14 13 84 18 1 3 4 5 14
2003–04 Minnesota Wild NHL 70 1 13 14 12 83
2005–06 Minnesota Wild NHL 64 2 6 8 15 87
2005–06 Dallas Stars NHL 16 0 2 2 4 26 5 0 0 0 5 2
2006–07 Vancouver Canucks NHL 62 1 10 11 1 45 12 0 1 1 -2 12
2007–08 Vancouver Canucks NHL 72 2 10 12 6 81
2008–09 Vancouver Canucks NHL 82 3 20 23 29 59 10 0 2 2 -2 22
NHL totals 538 15 92 107 69 573 45 1 6 7 1 50


Year Team Event   GP G A Pts PIM
2004 Canada WC 9 0 0 0 0
Int'l totals 9 0 0 0 0


  1. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 23 Oct, 2009

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