August 7, 2018 is a day that Chicagoans will not forget: the legendary Blackhawk Stan Mikita passed away at the age of 78. Struggling with dementia for the last three years, the memories and accomplishments Mikita had been a part of will not be forgotten. If you call yourself a Blackhawks fan, you better know the legends, including Stan Mikita.
Starting his NHL career full-time with Chicago in the 1959-60 season (he played three games in 1958), the young center quickly adjusted and became more noticeable around the league in his second year. In 1961, the Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup, while Mikita led all players in the playoffs with goals (6). A year later, Stan became more of a threat around the league with his curved stick, becoming one of the league’s best face-off players.
Within that decade, he led the league in scoring four times; as a result in the 1966-67 season, he tied Bobby Hull’s single-season scoring mark (at the time) with 97 points. In December 1967, he became one of the first players to wear a helmet full time after a puck tore off a piece of his ear in a previous game. Until current right-winger Patrick Kane won it in the 2015-16 season, Mikita was the last Blackhawk to win the scoring title in the 1967-68 season with 87 points. He also won the Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player) in ’67 and ’68.
Due to multiple back injuries, Mikita retired during the 1979-80 season. During that time, he was the third highest-scoring player in the NHL, trailing only Gordie Howe and Phil Esposito. The Blackhawks retired his number 21 on October 19th later that year. In 1983, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the Slovak Hall of Fame in 2002.
On March 7, 2008 , he was named a Blackhawks ambassador, with other legends Esposito, Savard, and Hull later joining. In 2011, Mikita was diagnosed with oral cancer and was undergoing external beam radiating therapy. In that same year, statues of Mikita and Bobby Hull were unveiled outside the United Center, where the Blackhawks currently play.
On January 30, 2015, Chicago Tribune issued the following statement, “Stan has been diagnosed with suspected Lewy body dementia, a progressive disease, and was under the care of compassionate and understanding care givers. Due to this illness, he has no memory of his former life and was under the care of his wife, Jill. August 7, 2018, he passed away at the age of 78, surrounded by his family.”
The Chicago icon may be gone, but left behind a legacy. He’s currently 14th all-time in points, 17th in assists, 30th in goals, and 35th in games played. A multiple Hart (’67,’68), Art Ross (’64,’65,’67,’68), and Lady Byng (’67,’68) trophy winner, he is also the only player in NHL history win all three awards in the same season, doing so as well in consecutive seasons (1966-67, 1967-68).
From 1958-1980, he played 1,396 games, all with the Blackhawks, to lead the franchise in that category. Per his request, Mikita will donate his brain for CTE research after his death.
For all the memories, moments and thrills you gave to Chicago, we thank you, Stan. You will be deeply missed.