Editorial: Numbers tell only part of the Mikita legend

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 8/8/2018 1:22 PM
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  • Stan Mikita is introduced at a Blackhawks Convention. "Stosh" died this week at age 78 and take his place among the legends in Chicago sports history who have died and left behind a legacy we will always celebrate.

    Stan Mikita is introduced at a Blackhawks Convention. "Stosh" died this week at age 78 and take his place among the legends in Chicago sports history who have died and left behind a legacy we will always celebrate. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

It's pretty heady stuff when you call someone a sports legend.

It's a label that shouldn't be thrown around cavalierly. Especially when talking about professional hockey. Especially when talking about the Chicago Blackhawks, which boasts 36 players in the Hockey Hall of Fame who played all or part of their career with the Original Six team.

There have been many great players who have laced up skates since the National Hockey League played its first game in 1917, but few rise to the level of true legends of the sport.

Stan Mikita is one.

He stands with Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilot, Denis Savard and other all-time greats who have worn the Indian Head sweater.

Known by fans as "Stosh," Mikita played his entire 22-year Hall of Fame career with the Blackhawks from 1958 to 1980. He won the Stanley Cup in 1961. He's the only player to win the league's MVP (Hart Trophy), league scoring award (Art Ross Trophy) and the sportsmanship award (Lady Byng Trophy) in the same season.

And, he did it twice.

His number 21 was retired, never to be worn again.

Mikita died Tuesday at the age of 78 surrounded by the family he loved so dearly. For more than three years, he suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, an awful disease that affects memory, sleep and behavior. He lived his last years in a memory-floor unit at an assisted living facility.

"There are no words to describe our sadness over Stan's passing," Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. "He meant so much to the Chicago Blackhawks, to the game of hockey and to all of Chicago."

Indeed he did.

As with all sports, a big part of Mikita's legend is based in numbers -- 541 goals, 926 assists, and 1,394 points are stats that rank in the top 31 in NHL history. He's the franchise leader in points, assists and games played.

However, the numbers tell only part of his story.

Mikita's legend also is in what he did for the game as an innovator that changed the sport forever.

The curved blade on today's hockey sticks? He invented it.

The helmets every player wears today? Mikita was one of the first to wear one.

Off the ice, he worked with the hearing-impaired and was a fan favorite. Our Barry Rozner described him as a "sweet man who always brought a joke and a handshake to the party."

Not bad for a kid whose parents sent him from Czechoslovakia to live with relatives in Canada on the promise of a better life.

Now, he takes his place among the legends in Chicago sports history -- Payton, Banks, Fox and others -- who have died and left behind a legacy we will always celebrate.

"He left an imprint that will forever be etched in the hearts of fans -- past, present and future," Wirtz said. "Stan made everyone he touched a better person."

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