Sad news in the hockey world on Tuesday as the Chicago Blackhawks announced that Hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita has died at the age of 78.
“There are no words to describe our sadness over Stan’s passing. He meant so much to the Chicago Blackhawks, to the game of hockey, and to all of Chicago. He left an imprint that will forever be etched in the hearts of fans – past, present and future. Stan made everyone he touched a better person. My wife Marilyn and I, joined by the entire Wirtz family, extend our prayers and thoughts to Jill and the Mikita family. ‘Stosh’ will be deeply missed, but never, ever forgotten.”
Mikita was born in Czechoslovakia and moved to Ontario, Canada when he was eight years old. He would join the Blackhawks during the 1958-59 NHL season and spent his entire 22-year NHL career with the franchise, helping them capture the 1961 Stanley Cup. Along with teammate Bobby Hull, he would be one of the first players to curve his stick.
His career would come to an end in 1980 after 1,396 NHL games. Mikita finished with 541 goals and 1,467 points making him the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Along with one Cup, he also won the Art Ross Trophy four times, the Lady Byng Trophy twice and the Hart Trophy in 1967 and 1968. He remains the only player to win the Art Ross, Hart and Byng in the same season — something he did twice.
During his playing days, Mikita partnered with a Chicago businessman to create the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association to help those deaf and hard-of-hearing build confidence and enjoy the game. The AHIHA is still going 45 years later.
The Blackhawks would retire his No. 21 months after he hung up his skates and the Hockey Hall of Fame came calling in 1983. In 2011, a statue was installed outside of United Center. During All-Star Weekend in 2017 he was named on the list of the NHL’s 100 greatest players.
Mikita’s name entered the pop culture world in 1992 when the big hang out spot for Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar in the movie “Wayne’s World” was named Stan Mikita’s Donuts.
“I put in 22 years as a pro athlete and they remembered me from a doughnut shop in a movie,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1997.
In 2015, when he was 75 years old, news came out that Mikita had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a brain disorder that affects the memory and can cause hallucinations and sleep disorders. “Whatever world he is in, he’s content,” his daughter Jane told the Chicago Tribune.