Stan Mikita, the Blackhawks' all-time leading scorer with 1,467 points, has died. He was 78.
Statement on behalf of the Mikita family:
With great sorrow, the Mikita family announces that Stan passed away on Tuesday August 7, 2018 at the age of 78. He was surrounded by his loving family whom he fiercely loved. Details of planned services will be released when they become available. We respectfully ask for privacy at this time.
Statement from Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz:
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.
Statement from Blackhawks President & 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. On behalf of the Chicago Blackhawks organization and our fans, we express our deepest condolences to the Mikita family and all who mourn Stan’s passing.
In 22 seasons in the NHL — all with the Blackhawks — Mikita took home two Hart Memorial trophies as most valuable player, four Art Ross trophies as leading scorer, appeared in nine All-Star games and helped Chicago capture a Stanley Cup in 1961. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
Throughout his career, Mikita was known to be an offensive machine. But in his early years, he was also one of the most penalized players in the league, racking up 689 total penalty minutes in his first seven seasons.
It wasn't until the final road game of the 1964-65 campaign when Mikita changed up his style after his 14-month old daughter Meg was watching on TV and asked: "Mommy, why does Daddy spend so much time sitting down?", referring to Mikita sitting in the penalty box away from his teammates.
Mikita's penalty minutes dropped from 154 to 58 the following season, and then to a mere 12 and 14, respectively, in 1966-67 and 1967-68. Because of that, he went on to win the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy — the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability — in back-to-back years and remains the only player in NHL history to capture the Hart, Art Ross and Lady Byng in the same season, having done so twice.
Perhaps his most innovative mark on the game, Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull were credited with inventing the curved stick. One day during practice Mikita's blade got caught in the doorway by the bench and cracked, creating an "L" shape in the stick. Out of frustration, Mikita found the nearest puck and fired a slapshot into the glass, which made a sound he'd never heard before. It was about a month later that Mikita perfected it and used it in a game for the first time.
"Obviously he's a big part of this family, the history of what it means to be a Blackhawk," Jonathan Toews said of Mikita in 2015. "You don’t feel the privilege to play for the Hawks if it’s not for people and players like Stan Mikita. Long after his playing days he’s still a humble, down-to-earth person who still takes the time to talk to everybody. He found ways to make other people feel good about themselves. That says more about him than anything else. We all look up to him and what he accomplished in the game of hockey."
Mikita, who had his number raised to the rafters on Oct. 19, 1980 and a bronze statue unveiled outside the United Center in 2011, will forever be remembered as arguably the greatest player to ever put on a Blackhawk uniform.