Stan Mikita

Stan Mikita was an NHL player who dedicated his playing career to the Chicago Blackhawks. Mikita was an incredibly talented center and was well-known for his all-around ability on the ice; he could control the puck, score goals and assist, which led to many individual honors throughout his 23-year career.

Career overview

Stan Mikita, originally named Stanislav Gvoth, was born in Czechoslovakia in 1940 and lived there until the age of eight. But his parents sent him to Canada for a better quality of life as Communism took hold of Eastern Europe after World War Two. Mikita lived with his aunt and uncle, Joe and Anna Mikita, in Ontario, Canada, and he eventually became so used to his new family that he later changed his surname from Gvoth to Mikita.

Within days of arriving in Ontario, Mikita started playing hockey. He saw other kids playing on the street and decided to join in. His love for the game was evident straight away. Mikita could not speak English when he arrived in Canada; however, his first words in English were ice hockey-related, “puck”, “stick” and “push”.

From the outset, nothing seemed to prevent Mikita’s enthusiasm for ice hockey. He used the game as a way to fit in with the local children and joined his first hockey club at the age of nine, despite the team being for 12-year-olds. Mikita was athletically gifted and played football, rugby, soccer, baseball, and basketball at school.

But nothing compared to hockey, Mikita woke at 5 a.m most mornings to practice his skills before school. In 1956, this determination eventually led Mikita to a place on St. Catharines Teepees of the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) – a farm team for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The rest was history. At the age of 18, Mikita made his debut for the Blackhawks, who he represented until his retirement in 1980.

Major achievements; including records, awards, etc

Mikita’s greatest individual career achievement came in the 1966/67 season when he became the only NHL player to win the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship, the Art Ross Trophy as the highest scorer in the league, and the Hart Trophy for being the NHL’s MVP. To add to outstanding achievement, Mikita repeated his trio of individual honors in the 1967/68 season, claiming all three trophies again. No NHL player before or since achieved this feat.

Despite possessing incredible individual talents, Mikita’s only major title in the NHL came early in his career when he helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in the 1960/61 season. Mikita was a regular in the Blackhawks team and scored 11 goals in 12 games to help Chicago beat the Detroit Red Wings.

Mikita was a player at the heart of ice hockey innovation and was the first player to use a curved stick. In practice, Mikita’s stick got caught between the benches and bent as he tried to pull it free. Instead of swapping his curved stick, he went on to the ice and starting to score with spinning shots which threw his teammates. Rather than replace his broken stick, Mikita and teammate, Bobby Hull, began to experiment with the curved stick.

Following a head injury in 1969, Mikita also became one of the first hockey players to wear a helmet on the ice. His helmet was specifically designed by an engineer to support his head whilst playing; the experience led to Mikita’s involvement in a headgear manufacturer in later years.

Mikita was a central figure of the Blackhawks until his final season where he made just 17 appearances due to ongoing back problems. He retired in April 1980 and remains the highest assister (926), points scorer (1467), and appearance maker (1,396) in Blackhawk’s history. Three years after retiring, Mikita entered the NHL Hall of Fame.

After retiring, Mikita took up golf and became a club pro at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in the suburbs of Chicago. However, one of his main passions was in supporting deaf ice hockey players, inspired by his struggles learning English when he first arrived in Canada. Mikita coached players with hearing disabilities throughout his career and continued this work for decades after his retirement.

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