Chicago Blackhawks' Great Stan Mikita

October 15, 2010
By Ross Everett

While NHL hockey players from the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia"as well as other Eastern European nations"are commonplace today, Chicago Blackhawks great Stan Mikita was something of a pioneer. Other players with a flashier game such as Bobby Hull became better known, but you can make a compelling case that Mikita was the best center iceman in professional hockey during the'60s. Mikita was born in Sokolce, in what is now known as Slovakia. He was sent by his family to the Toronto, Ontario area as a young boy to avoid the political strife in the area prior to World War II. An aunt and uncle adopted him, and he changed his name from his birth name of Stanislav Guoth adopting their last name of Mikita. Like most young Canadian boys, he started playing hockey and quickly proved to have an impressive aptitude for the national sport.

He was a star in the juniors as a teenager, playing with the St. Catherine Teepees of the Ontario Hockey Association. By'60, he was a full time player for the NHL Chicago Blackhawks and would lead the team in playoff scoring during their Stanley Cup winning year of'61.

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.

Early in his career, Mikita played a tough, rugged style of hockey that made him one of the most penalized players in the game. In the mid'60s, however, he began to play a much cleaner and more sportsmanlike style that would earn him the Lady Byng Trophy for most gentlemanly player twice. According to legend, his young daughter prompted the change of play with her frequent questions about why her daddy 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 back injuries in his last years as an active player, finally retiring in'80. He played his entire career for the Chicago Blackhawks, and was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in'83. He became something of a trivia answer for a younger generation when a donut shop called 'Stan Mikita's Donuts' was featured in the popular movie 'Wayne'w World'.

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