In memory of Stan Mikita

In memory of Stan Mikita
Source: pdclipart.org

I had known it was coming since the most recent day the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup championship, i.e., June 15, 2015, but today's  news of Stan Mikita's death still came as a shock to me as a Blackhawk supporter.

Some of my favorite memories of growing up are of watching Stan late in his 22-year career with "my" team. Maybe part of today's shock was from growing up with the feeling that he had "always" been part of the team, because I can't remember a time he wasn't.

Well, he will be a part of the team always. Here's part of why:

In hockey, the "Triple Crown" of winning the scoring title (the Art Ross Trophy), the Most Valuable Player (the Hart Trophy) and Most Gentlemanly Player (the Lady Byng Trophy) in the same season has happened only twice, ever, in the history of the National Hockey League.

Stan Mikita did it both times, winning all three trophies in 1967 and 1968.

That's before I started being aware of games, but I did get to see Mikita play. Throughout his long final illness, I thought of the image of him in a game my father and I attended in 1979 at Chicago Stadium. The Chicago Blackhawks played the Detroit Red Wings and lost -- and I discovered that I enjoyed the day anyway.

But the image that stays with me most from that game is of Stan Mikita, somewhat lower than average size and weight for a hockey player, carrying Detroit's Willi Huber on his back when Huber tried to stop him.

Huber was about six-foot-everything tall -- much bigger than Mikita -- but I still remember how that never stopped Mikita. Stan kept skating, with Huber draped all over him, from center ice into the Blackhawk zone on the far side from where Dad and I were sitting.

Huber didn't let go, so Mikita propelled the two of them behind Blackhawks goaltender Tony Esposito's net and into the corner of the ice near where Dad and I were sitting.

Now, the ethic in hockey at the time was that the goaltender didn't leave his net except in cases of emergency.  But by the time Huber and Mikita reacher the corner of the ice near us, all five of the other 'Hawk skaters on the ice -- including Esposito -- were there to gather around the two of them and let Huber know, in no uncertain terms, that such treatment of Mikita was not going to be tolerated.

During his illness, I respected the Mikita family for guarding their privacy so well. When I thought of Stan, as I often did, I thought of him battling the illness just as he battled Willi Huber so long ago -- carrying a huge burden on his back, but not stopping.

He, and the family, can lay that burden down now. May others gather around the Mikita family to defend them as his teammates defended Stan.

Peace be with his family, friends, teammates and supporters.

 

Filed under: Uncategorized

Comments

Leave a comment
  • The one thing I remember (other than he was always on the ice for the Hawks while Bobby Hull wasn't) was that I told my mother that it was strange that he was Czech (instead of Canadian), and she said there were plenty of good Czech hockey players.

    It's also good that Rocky and McDononough brought him and the others back as ambassadors, as, IMO, Bill Wirtz was trashing the Blackhawks' legacy.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thank you, Jack. Your mother was correct; I remember the Stastny brothers and other Czech and Slovak players, even Marian Hossa before he came to the Hawks, and I remember saying "Of course they're good, look where they're from!"
    I am glad the ambassadors program came along, too. The wonders of the 2009-10 season (the first championship since 1961) began with the ambassadors -- Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard -- joining the present-day team on the ice. That was the first great memory in a year that ended with Patrick Kane's championship-winning goal.

  • I remember him well. I followed hockey then, what with only 6 teams in all. I knew every Hawk player. Mikita measured up to the highest standards of excellence, on and off the ice. I will always see him flicking a puck into the net just as if the goalie weren't there. Thanks for your superb tribute.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Thank you. I don't doubt that most goalies wished they weren't there when he shot the puck. Many thanks for your kind words.

  • I am not a hockey fan, Margaret, but I enjoy feeling your love for the game and the athletes who play it in the memories and tributes - like this one of Stan Mikita - you share here.

  • In reply to folkloric:

    Thank you for indulging me, folkloric, and for your kind words and presence.

  • A beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for writing this.

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    You're very welcome. Thank you for your kind words and your faithful reading.

Leave a comment