‘Forever a Blackhawk’: Hall of Famer Stan Mikita dead at 78


When Stan Mikita bought again along with the Chicago Blackhawks, it was clear how a lot the reconciliation meant to the Hall of Fame ahead.

He grew to become a group ambassador, after which bought a bronze statue exterior the United Middle. He was a common at house video games, drawing loud cheers when he was proven on the videoboard, typically with former teammate Bobby Hull proper beside him.

“I used to be proud to put on the Indianhead uniform for 22 years,” Mikita mentioned when he was honoured earlier than a 2008 house sport.

Made it look good, too.

The Blackhawks misplaced one of essentially the most revered figures in franchise historical past when Mikita died Tuesday. The previous captain, who helped Chicago to the 1961 Stanley Cup title, was 78.

Mikita’s household introduced his demise in a assertion launched by the group. No additional particulars had been supplied, however he had been sick after being identified with Lewy physique dementia — a progressive illness that causes issues with pondering, motion, behaviour and temper.

Chicago Blackhawks nice Stan Mikita has handed at the age of 78. He leaves behind a legacy that can be remembered by hockey followers eternally. 0:53

“He was surrounded by his loving household whom he fiercely beloved,” the household mentioned within the assertion.

Mikita spent his total profession with Chicago, starting together with his NHL debut in 1959 and working by means of his retirement after taking part in 17 video games within the 1979-80 season. Recognized for utilizing a follow a depraved curve, he’s the Blackhawks’ profession chief for assists (926), factors (1,467) and video games performed (1,394), and is second to Hull with 541 targets.

‘Remembered as a champion’

He was named one of the highest 100 NHL gamers of all time by The Canadian Press in 2017.

Mikita stays the one NHL participant in historical past to win the Artwork Ross (scoring champion), Hart (MVP) and Girl Byng (sportsmanship) trophies in the identical season, and he completed the feat in consecutive years in 1967 and 1968. He grew to become the primary participant to have his jersey retired by the Blackhawks in 1980, and was inducted into the hockey Hall of Fame three years later.

“Stan Mikita can be at all times remembered as a champion, an innovator and a grasp of the sport,” group president John McDonough mentioned. “He embodied the Chicago Blackhawks. His excellence is illustrated by the group information he nonetheless holds immediately.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman referred to as Mikita “one of the best gamers in NHL historical past and a Chicago icon,” and highlighted his work to enhance the sport.

“He designed the distinctive helmet he donned later in his profession, when that also was a rarity,” Bettman mentioned in a assertion. “He curved his stick blade to an extent beforehand unthinkable, inflicting his shot to do tips. He completely remodeled his taking part in fashion in his prime, going from one of the league’s most penalized gamers to at least one of its most gentlemanly.”

Mikita’s relationship with the Blackhawks deteriorated over time, however the franchise reached out to the previous captain after longtime proprietor William Wirtz died in 2007 and his son, Rocky, took over. The return of Mikita and Hull was a key second within the transformation of the Blackhawks from one of the NHL’s worst franchises to its present place among the many greatest run organizations in sports activities.

“There are not any phrases to explain our unhappiness over Stan’s passing,” Rocky Wirtz mentioned. “He meant a lot to the Chicago Blackhawks, to the sport of hockey, and to all of Chicago.”

Born Stanislaus Guoth in Sokolce, Slovak Republic, in 1940, he emigrated to St. Catharines, Ont., as a younger boy, in response to his Hockey Hall of Fame induction biography.

‘Perpetually a Blackhawk’

He was named to Canada’s group for the 1972 Summit Collection, however performed in simply two video games on account of harm. The Canadian group performed an exhibition sport in Prague in opposition to the Czech nationwide group previous to returning to Canada, and Mikita was named Canada’s captain for that sport.

The five-foot-nine Mikita was simply 18 when he was promoted from the Ontario Hockey Affiliation’s St. Catharines Teepees to affix a mediocre Blackhawks franchise in 1959. He made his debut at house in opposition to mighty Montreal, and his first faceoff got here in opposition to Jean Beliveau throughout his prime.

“I used to be nonetheless in a daze after I went out to take that faceoff in opposition to a legend like Beliveau, who was round six-foot-five and a towering presence on the ice,” Mikita wrote in his 2011 e book, “Perpetually a Blackhawk.”

“He needed to outweigh me by 60 kilos. The faceoff was in Montreal’s finish. I appeared up at him from the circle and wound up staring at his stomach button. That is how tall he was. My knees had been shaking. My head was spinning. By some means I bought my stick down and managed to get the puck to our level man. Do not ask me who it was. I used to be too nervous to recollect names.”

However Mikita confirmed regular enchancment at the beginning of his profession, serving to Chicago turn into one of essentially the most feared groups within the league. He had eight targets and 18 assists in his first full season, after which helped the Blackhawks to their first NHL title in 23 years.

The 1960-61 group, coached by Rudy Pilous, went 29-24-17 within the common season, ending third within the NHL. Chicago then upset Beliveau and closely favoured Montreal, and beat Detroit in six video games for the championship. Mikita had 19 targets and 34 assists within the common season, after which added six extra targets and 5 assists in 12 playoff video games.

Mikita and the Blackhawks performed for the Stanley Cup once more in 1962, however misplaced to Toronto in six video games. In addition they misplaced within the finals in 1965, 1971 and 1973 regardless of continued post-season success for Mikita, who tops the franchise playoff lists for assists (91), factors (150) and video games (155).

“I, alongside all who performed with him, knew him not solely as a nice participant, however as an excellent higher pal, teammate, husband, father and grandfather,” Hull mentioned in a assertion from the group. “I take consolation in figuring out we can be eternally collectively in entrance of the United Middle, and I am honored to now play a half in retaining his legacy alive.”




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