Stan Mikita, who led Blackhawks to 1961 title, dies at 78
CHICAGO (AP) — Stan Mikita, the hockey great who helped the Chicago Blackhawks to the 1961 Stanley Cup title while becoming one of the franchise's most revered figures, died today. He was 78.
Mikita's family announced his death in a statement released by the team. No further details were provided, but the Hall of Famer had been in poor health after being diagnosed with a brain disorder called Lewy body dementia.
"He was surrounded by his loving family whom he fiercely loved," the family said in the statement.
Mikita spent his entire career with Chicago, beginning with his NHL debut in 1959 and running through his retirement after playing 17 games in the 1979-80 season. He is the franchise's career leader for assists (926), points (1,467) and games played (1,394), and is second to former teammate Bobby Hull with 541 goals.
Mikita remains the only NHL player in history to win the Art Ross (scoring champion), Hart (MVP) and Lady Byng (sportsmanship) trophies in the same season, and he accomplished the feat in consecutive years in 1967 and 1968. He became the first player to have his jersey retired by the Blackhawks in 1980, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame three years later.
Mikita's relationship with the Blackhawks deteriorated over time, but the franchise reached out to the former captain after longtime owner William Wirtz died in 2007 and his son, Rocky, took over. Mikita and Hull each became a team ambassador and were honored with bronze statues outside the United Center.
Mikita was a regular at home games before his health deteriorated, drawing loud cheers when he was shown on the videoboard, often with Hull right beside him.