In case you missed yesterday’s news, legendary Hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita has passed away at age 78.
The Chicago Blackhawks, with whom Mikita played for his entire career, broke the news via social media. Read below for the official press release courtesy of the team’s official website:
Stan Mikita, the leading scorer in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks, a two-time Hart Trophy winner and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, died Tuesday. He was 78.Mikita played his entire 22-year NHL career with the Blackhawks. The forward is Chicago’s all-time leader in points (1,467; 14th in NHL history), assists (926; 18th) and games played (1,396; 40th). He became the first Blackhawks player to have his number retired when his No. 21 was raised to the rafters at Chicago Stadium in 1980. Mikita is the only player in NHL history to win the Art Ross, Hart and Lady Byng trophies in the same season, and he did it back-to-back (1966-67, 1967-68).
“Once he arrived in Chicago he never left, becoming a pillar of the city. He played in more games for the Blackhawks than anyone and came to be as much a symbol of the franchise as The Roar of Chicago Stadium and the United Center and the classic sweater. We are grateful for all Stan gave to us — his fans, his game, his admirers, his league and his city — and we mourn his passing.”
Said Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough, “Stan Mikita will be always remembered as a champion, an innovator and a master of the game. He embodied the Chicago Blackhawks. His excellence is illustrated by the team records he still holds today. His passion for the game was proved by the longevity of his playing career. The impact he had on the franchise is proved by fact that Blackhawks fans still wear his jersey to the United Center.”
Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said, “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.”
Mikita was No. 3 on the NHL all-time scoring list when he retired after the 1979-80 season, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. He worked in sales and as a golf pro, but gained a measure of renewed fame in 1992 when he appeared in the film “Wayne’s World,” which featured a Tim Hortons-parodying coffee shop in Aurora, Illinois, known as Mikita’s. “I put in 22 years as a pro athlete, and they remembered me from a doughnut shop in a movie,” Mikita self-deprecatingly told Sports Illustrated.
Though the Blackhawks had retired his number, he had little contact with the team until 2007. Following the death of longtime owner William Wirtz, McDonagh reached out to Mikita and other stars of the past.
“I never thought I’d ever see the ice in the United Center,” Mikita said. “But when John McDonough called me and asked me if I’d be interested in, if you will, becoming a Blackhawk again, I jumped at it.”
Mikita and Hull were honored at a pregame ceremony March 7, 2008, when they were formally named team ambassadors. When the Blackhawks ended their 49-year Cup drought two seasons later by winning their first title since 1961, he and Hull were among those who received Stanley Cup rings. Mikita became a fixture at public events, even attending team functions while battling oral cancer in his early 70s.
On Oct. 22, 2011, the Blackhawks unveiled statues of Mikita and Hull outside United Center, where they stand beside one that honors Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan. It’s a monument to perhaps the greatest player ever to spend his entire career in Chicago, and one who overcame numerous challenges to become one of hockey’s all-time greats.
Rest in peace, Stan Mikita. Gone, but NEVER forgotten.