Stanislav "Stan" Mikita (born Stanislav Gvoth; May 20, 1940), is a Slovak-born Canadian retired professional ice hockey player for the Chicago Black Hawks of the National Hockey League, generally regarded as the best centre of the 1960s.
Mikita was born in Sokolče, Slovak Republic as Stanislav Gvoth and raised in a small farming community there until late 1948, but moved to St. Catharines, Ontario, as a young boy to escape Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia. He was adopted by his aunt and uncle, Anna and Joe Mikita, who gave him their surname.
After three starring junior seasons with the St. Catharines Teepees of the Ontario Hockey Association, Mikita was promoted to the parent Chicago Black Hawks in 1959–60. In his second full year, in 1961, the Hawks won their third Stanley Cup. The young centre led the entire league in goals during the playoffs, scoring a total of six.
The following season was his breakout year. Stan Mikita became a star as centre of the famed "Scooter Line", with right wing Ken Wharram and left wingers Ab McDonald and Doug Mohns. He became the most-feared centre of the 1960s. With superstar teammate Bobby Hull, the Black Hawks had the most powerful offense of the decade, generally leading the league in goals scored. Combining skilled defense and a reputation as one of the game's best faceoff men using his innovative curved stick, Mikita led the league in scoring four times in the decade, tying Bobby Hull's year-old single-season scoring mark in 1966–67 with 97 points (a mark broken two years later by former teammate Phil Esposito and currently held by Wayne Gretzky). The 1967–68 season, an 87-point effort from Mikita, was the last year a Chicago player won the scoring title until Patrick Kane's 106-point 2015–16 season. Kane's Art Ross season also saw him become the first Hawk to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as Most Valuable Player since Mikita in his last Art Ross season.
In his early years, Mikita was among the most penalized players in the league, but he then decided to play a cleaner game and went on to win the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for particularly sportsmanlike conduct combined with excellence twice. Mikita's drastic change in behavior came after he returned home from a road trip. His wife told him that while their daughter, Meg, was watching the Black Hawks' last road game on television, she turned and said, "Mommy, why does Daddy spend so much time sitting down?" The camera had just shown Mikita in the penalty box again (from Mikita's autobiography I Play to Win).
During his playing career, in 1973, Mikita teamed up with Chicago businessman Irv Tiahnybik to form the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA), to bring together deaf and hard-of-hearing hockey players from all over the country, and he founded the Stan Mikita School for the Hearing Impaired, inspired by a friend’s deaf son who was an aspiring goalie. He also helped bring the Special Olympics to Chicago, bringing his family out to volunteer at races.
Use of curved stick
Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull were the most formidable forward duo of the 1960s, notorious for using sticks with curved blades. Such sticks gave a comparative advantage to shooters versus goaltenders. As a result, the NHL limited blade curvature to ½" in 1970. Mikita reportedly began the practice after his standard stick got caught in a bench door, bending the blade before he hit the ice; he soon was borrowing a propane torch from team trainers to create a deliberate curve.
Mikita was also one of the first players to wear a helmet full time, after a December 1967 game in which an errant shot tore a piece off one of his ears (it was subsequently stitched back on.)
Mikita's later years were marred by chronic back injuries, leading to his retirement during the 1979–80 season. At that time, only Gordie Howe and Phil Esposito had scored more points in the NHL, and just six players had appeared in more games. Mikita was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983, and into the Slovak Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.
After retiring, Mikita became a golf pro at Kemper Lakes Golf Club. His other business interests, under Stan Mikita Enterprises, included making the small plastic sauce containers that accompany chicken nuggets at McDonald’s. He owned Stan Mikita's Village Inn in the 1960s and 1970s, located in the Oakbrook Shopping Center, Oak Brook, Illinois.
Mikita provided the foreword to the children's book "My Man Stan" by Tim Wendel. Mikita is featured as a main character in the book.
He became a goodwill ambassador for the Blackhawks' organization, and in fall of 2011, the Blackhawks raised a statue honouring Mikita at Gate 3½ at Chicago’s United Center. For three decades the Blackhawks Alumni Association has hosted an annual golf tournament named in Mikita’s honour.
On May 24, 2011, Mikita was diagnosed with oral cancer and would be undergoing external beam radiation therapy. On January 30, 2015, the Chicago Tribune released this statement: “Stan has been diagnosed with suspected Lewy body dementia, a progressive disease, and is currently under the care of compassionate and understanding care givers," In June, it was revealed that due to his illness, he has no memory of his former life and is being cared for by his wife Jill.
Mikita is currently 14th in regular-season points scored in the history of the NHL, and just three other players have appeared in more games while playing for only one team over their careers.
Mikita appeared as himself in a cameo role in the film Wayne's World, which featured a "Stan Mikita" doughnut shop, spoofing the Canadian doughnut chain Tim Hortons (co-founded by Hockey Hall of Fame member Tim Horton). A restaurant named "Stan Mikita's" and closely resembling the movie's version opened in 1994 at the Virginia amusement park Kings Dominion and at Paramount Carowinds in Charlotte. The Virginia restaurant was later converted to a Happy Days theme.
|1956–57||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA-Jr.||52||16||31||47||—||129||—||—||—||14||8||9||17||44||—||—||—|
|1957–58||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA-Jr.||52||31||47||78||—||146||—||—||—||8||4||5||9||46||—||—||—|
|1958–59||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA-Jr.||45||38||59||97||—||197||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1958–59||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||3||0||1||1||—||4||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1959–60||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||67||8||18||26||—||119||—||—||—||3||0||1||1||2||—||—||—|
|1960–61||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||66||19||34||53||—||100||—||—||—||12||6||5||11||21||—||—||—|
|1961–62||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||70||25||52||77||—||97||—||—||—||12||6||15||21||19||—||—||—|
|1962–63||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||65||31||45||76||—||69||—||—||—||6||3||2||5||2||—||—||—|
|1963–64||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||70||39||50||89||—||146||14||1||7||7||3||6||9||8||—||—||—|
|1964–65||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||70||28||59||87||—||154||8||0||6||14||3||7||10||53||—||—||—|
|1965–66||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||68||30||48||78||—||58||11||1||1||6||1||2||3||2||—||—||—|
|1966–67||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||70||35||62||97||—||12||8||1||5||6||2||2||4||2||—||—||—|
|1967–68||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||72||40||47||87||-3||14||13||2||8||11||5||7||12||6||3||0||0|
|1968–69||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||74||30||67||97||+17||52||7||3||2||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1969–70||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||76||39||47||86||+29||50||7||0||8||8||4||6||10||2||3||0||1|
|1970–71||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||74||24||48||72||+21||85||7||0||4||18||5||13||18||16||1||0||1|
|1971–72||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||74||26||39||65||+16||46||5||0||6||8||3||1||4||4||0||0||0|
|1972–73||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||57||27||56||83||+31||32||7||1||5||15||7||13||20||8||1||0||2|
|1973–74||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||76||30||50||80||+24||46||6||2||1||11||5||6||11||8||1||0||1|
|1974–75||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||79||36||50||86||+14||48||12||0||6||8||3||4||7||12||1||0||1|
|1975–76||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||48||16||41||57||-4||37||6||0||1||4||0||0||0||4||0||0||0|
|1976–77||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||57||19||30||49||-9||20||6||1||4||2||0||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|1977–78||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||76||18||41||59||+18||35||6||0||2||4||3||0||3||0||2||0||0|
|1978–79||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||65||19||36||55||+3||34||4||0||1||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1979–80||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||17||2||5||7||+2||12||0||0||0||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
Awards and accomplishments
- Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983
- Ranked 14th all-time in points, 17th in assists, 30th in goals, and 35th in games played (at end of 2013–14 NHL season)
- Won the Hart Memorial Trophy as most valuable player in 1967 and 1968
- Won the Art Ross Trophy as leading scorer in 1964, 1965, 1967, and 1968
- Won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 1967 and 1968
- Stanley Cup champion (1961)
- Named to the NHL's First All-Star Team in 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, and 1968
- Named to the NHL's Second All-Star Team in 1965 and 1970.
- Played in NHL All-Star Game in 1964, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975
- Won the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1976
- The only player in NHL history to win the Hart, Art Ross, and Lady Byng trophies in the same season, doing so in consecutive seasons, in 1966–67 and 1967–68
- Only Nicklas Lidström, Alex Delvecchio, and Steve Yzerman (all of whom played for the Detroit Red Wings) had a longer NHL career playing for only a single team.
- Was named to Team Canada for the 1972 Summit Series, but only played two games due to injuries
- He was inducted into the Slovak Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.
- In 1998, he was ranked number 17 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 greatest NHL players, making him the highest-ranked player born outside of Canada, although he was trained in Canada (number-37 ranked Jaromír Jágr, who was also born in Czechoslovakia, was the highest-ranked trained outside Canada).
- The Blackhawks retired number 21 on October 19, 1980; Mikita was the first Black Hawks player to have his number retired.
- The ice rink in Ružomberok, Slovakia, is named after him.
- In 2011, statues of Mikita and Bobby Hull were installed outside the United Center, where the Black Hawks currently play.