Mr. Mikita, who weighed only 165 pounds, played 22 years for the Blackhawks and was the team’s captain. He was the franchise’s all-time leading regular-season scorer with 1,467 points. His 926 assists are a team record, and his 541 goals rank second in team history, after his longtime teammate Bobby Hull.
“Pound for pound Stan had to be one of the greatest who ever played, and he was a player who always came to play,” Hull told the Chicago Tribune.
Mr. Mikita spent his entire career with Chicago, beginning with his NHL debut in 1959. He retired after playing 17 games in the 1979-80 season.
His No. 21 jersey was the first to be retired by the team, and a bronze statue of Mr. Mikita stands outside the United Center in Chicago, where the Blackhawks play their home games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
Mr. Mikita is the only NHL player in history to win the Art Ross (scoring champion), Hart (most valuable player) and Lady Byng (sportsmanship) trophies in the same season — a feat he accomplished in consecutive years in 1967 and 1968.
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“Stan Mikita will be always remembered as a champion, an innovator and a master of the game,” team president John McDonough said.
Mr. Mikita’s relationship with the Blackhawks deteriorated over time, but the franchise reached out to him after longtime owner William Wirtz died in 2007, and his son, Rocky, took over. The return of Mr. Mikita and Hull was a key moment in the transformation of the Blackhawks from one of the NHL’s worst franchises to its current place among the best-run organizations in sports.
When Mr. Mikita got back together with the Blackhawks, it was clear how much the reconciliation meant to him. He became a team ambassador and was a regular presence at home games, drawing loud cheers when he was shown on the video board, often with Hull beside him.
“I was proud to wear the Indianhead uniform for 22 years,” Mr. Mikita said when he was honored before a 2008 home game.
He was considered an innovator in his sport, and he and Hull were among the first hockey players to adopt a curved blade on their sticks, now standard for most players.
According to a 1969 Time magazine article, Mr. Mikita accidentally discovered, after breaking his blade in practice, that “he could rip off a shot faster and harder with his crooked cudgel. Soon he and teammate Bobby Hull were warping the wooden blades of their sticks into scoop-like curves by soaking them in hot water and wedging them under door jambs overnight.”
Mr. Mikita had not been among the NHL’s top 10 before the 1961-62 season. For the next eight years, he and Hull were both in the top 10 and finished 1-2 three times.
In 1968, after he was struck in the ear by an errant shot, Mr. Mikita became one of the first NHL players to wear a helmet at all times. Helmets are now required for all players.
Mr. Mikita was born Stanislav Guoth on May 20, 1940, in Sokolce, Czechoslovakia. In 1948, he was adopted by an aunt and uncle, Joe and Anna Mikita, in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he grew up.
He made his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens, and his first faceoff came against Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau during his prime.
“I was still in a daze when I went out to take that faceoff against a legend like Beliveau, who was around 6-foot-5 and a towering presence on the ice,” Mr. Mikita wrote in his 2011 book, “Forever a Blackhawk.”
“He had to outweigh me by 60 pounds. The faceoff was in Montreal’s end. I looked up at him from the circle and wound up staring at his belly button. That’s how tall he was. My knees were shaking. My head was spinning. Somehow I got my stick down and managed to get the puck to our point man. Don’t ask me who it was. I was too nervous to remember names.”
Mr. Mikita quickly helped Chicago develop into one of the most feared teams in the league, helping the Blackhawks win the 1961 Stanley Cup, their first NHL title in 23 years.
The team upset the heavily favored Montreal in the playoffs, then beat the Detroit Red Wings in six games for the championship. Mr. Mikita led all players with six goals and five assists in 12 playoff games.
Mr. Mikita and the Blackhawks played for the Stanley Cup again in 1962, but lost to Toronto in six games. They also lost in the finals in 1965, 1971 and 1973 despite continued postseason success for Mr. Mikita, who tops the franchise playoff lists for assists (91), points (150) and games (155).
Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Jill, and four children.
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