As the countdown to the Chicago Blackhawks 2018-19 season continues, we’ll take a look at one player who wore the same number as there are days left until October 4 when the season kicks off against the Ottawa Senators.
Chicago Blackhawks hockey is 21 days away. Today, I won’t waste your time with some long drawn out introduction. I won’t waste your time trying to find a way to get you to go and read the last article from this countdown.
Instead, today I want us all to remember the one and only Stan Mikita.
To talk about Stan, it’s obvious we have to mention his career. Mikita played the entirety of his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks (then called Black Hawks). He began in 1958-59 and didn’t hang up his skates until 1979-80.
Over two decades. Mikita’s Blackhawks career could buy a beer if it wanted to.
Currently, the franchise record books are flooded with Stan’s name. He holds the record for points 91,467) and games played (1,396 according to NHL.com).
Mikita won the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the player with the most points in the league, four separate times. In addition he added two Hart Trophies (for the MVP) and two Lady Byng Trophies for sportsmanship during his long career in Chicago.
He’d eventually be named to the NHL Hall of Fame and, in 1980, was the first Blackhawk to have his jersey number retired. The Chicago Blackhawks eventually built a statue outside of the United Center of Stan, helping him to live on forever.
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That said, I don’t want to talk about Mikita as a player or by the numbers.
I want to talk about Stan Mikita as a man.
Chicago Blackhawks’ Stan Mikita Off The Ice
If you didn’t gather from his statistics, Mikita was a superstar. He led the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup Final victory. He won MVP awards. Put simply, he was a big deal.
However, that didn’t phase him.
Chicago Blackhawks team historian and former Chicago Tribune beat writer/columnist from 1967-97 Bob Verdi knew Mikita. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the two of them were friends, however it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Stan and most people were friends. After his passing, he wrote a multi-part series on Mikita.
"“He cut his own grass, answered his own phone, and if you were a neighbor awakening after an overnight blizzard, you might peer out at your driveway and discover that it had been cleared by a snow angel.”"
He recalls Mikita always wanting to make everyone welcome. It didn’t matter if you were a future star on the rise or a fourth line winger fighting to be on the team, Verdi remembers Stan talking to them and listening just the same.
Verdi recalls one specific example, writing:
"“If you were a wide-eyed kid hoping to make the team as a rookie like Bob Murray, you would get a phone call in the hotel room of a strange city inviting you to dinner with Stan and wife Jill at their house.”"
Stan Mikita is the kind of person who doesn’t come along very often. No matter who you were, he always treated others with the upmost respect. Further than that, he was a selfless man. He used his fame to help others and put it towards good use. Verdi remembers one example of this, regarding Stan and the Special Olympics.
"“Shortly after Keith Magnuson and Cliff Koroll’s rookie year, Mikita called them over the summer to meet for lunch. Instead, he drove them to Soldier Field for the initial Special Olympics in 1968. This is what you do, Mikita intoned, when you’re a Blackhawk. Visit churches. Go to nursing homes. Give back to the community.”"
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Mikita would continue giving back to the community in a variety of different ways to countless organizations. One of his mainstays was the Special Olympics and although his health prevented him from participating in the 50th anniversary of it this past year. However, his spirit lived on through the son of Keith Magnuson, Kevin, who primarily ran the Special Olympics this year. Not only that, but Patrick Kane and other past Blackhawks recently participated in a charity hockey game benefiting them as well.
All in all, it’s clear that Mikita has left his mark all over the organization, the city of Chicago and so, so many people. Today and everyday, I encourage us all to live with a little bit of Stan Mikita in us.
Unfortunately, Stan Mikita passed away on August 7th, 2018 at the age of 78.