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Windy City Hockey Icon Stan Mikita

freecompress NHL 3Professional hockey players from the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia are now ubiquitous, but Stan Mikita was something of a pioneer. The Chicago Blackhawks legend was sometimes relegated to secondary status behind more telegenetic stars like teammate Bobby Hull, but you can make a very good case that Mikita was the best NHL forward of the’60’s. He was born in Sokolce, in what is now known as Slovakia. In the conflict torn years prior to WW II, he was sent to Canada and adopted by an aunt and uncle. Like most young Canadian boys, he started playing hockey and quickly exhibited significant talent at the country’s national sport.

Mikita starred for the junior league St. Catherine Teepees as a teenager before making the jump to the NHL joining the Chicago Blackhawks. He quickly became an important part of the Chicago offense in his first and second full seasons as a pro. In’61, he led the team in playoff scoring as they won the Stanley Cup.

The following year was when Mikita really began to make a mark in professional hockey. Centering the dangerous Scooter Line with Ken Wharram on the right wing and Ab McDonald or Doug Mohns on the left wing, he became one of the most feared offensive scorers and playmakers in the league. While he played in the media shadow of Bobby Hull, Mikita was considered by most hockey cognoscenti to be the real offensive catalyst of the team.

Never content with being a one way player, Mikita was a fearless defender and one of the most reliable faceoff specialists in the NHL. He also started a revolution when he became the first to play with a curved stick blade. That was considered radical, almost avant garde at the time but is now the standard in the NHL.

When he first came to the NHL, Mikita was a tough, hard hitting player who spent a considerable amount of time in the penalty box. That changed in the mid’60’s when he became a very sportsmanlike player almost overnight. This cleaner style of play would earn him the Lady Byng Trophy for most gentlemanly player twice. The story goes that he had a change of heart when his young daughter asked why he spent so much time sitting in the box on televised games.

In addition to his Stanley Cup victory, Mikitas career accomplishments are among the most impressive in NHL history. He won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHLs leading scorer four times (1964,’65,’67,’68), the Hart Memorial Trophy for Most Valuable Player twice (1967 and’68) and the Lady Byng Trophy in’67 and’68.

Mikita suffered from chronic back ailments later in his career, and finally retired in’80 having played his entire career for the Chicago Blackhawks. He was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (1983) and became enshrined in pop culture history a few years later thanks to the movie ‘Wayne’s World’. In the movie, protagonists Wayne and Garth frequently hang out at a donut shop based on the Canadian Tim Hortons chain. The name of the shop is Stan Mikitas Donuts.

Ross Everett is a freelance sports writer and noted authority on football betting. His writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sportsbooks and sportsbook directory sites. He lives in Southern Nevada with three Jack Russell Terriers and an emu. He is currently working on an autobiography of former energy secretary Donald Hodell.