Heartbreaking news out of Chicago this morning where it was announced that Hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita has been diagnosed with suspected Lewy Body dementia.
A statement released by his family confirms that Mikita is suffering from the progressive disease and is currently under compassionate care.
“The family of Stan Mikita truly appreciates the support he has received over the many years he has played, worked and lived in the Chicago area,” the statement reads. “They hope the fans will keep him in their thoughts and prayers and respect his privacy during this difficult time.”
The Blackhawks issued a statement of their own this morning:
“We are aware of the unfortunate health news regarding Blackhawks Ambassador and Hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita. We are thinking of Stan and his family at this difficult time, and wish him well. Stan’s family has asked for privacy, and we hope all will respect their wishes.”
The first Czech-born player in the NHL, Mikita spent 22 years with the Blackhawks and remains the franchise’s all-time leader in assists (926), points (1,467) and games played (1,394). He ranks second in goals (541) behind his former teammate Bobby Hull (604).
Mikita picked up a reputation as a dirty player early in his career, topping 100 minutes in penalties four times, but he went on to win three Lady Byng trophies in recognition of his gentlemanly play. His first came in 1966-67 in what is regarded as one of the greatest seasons in NHL history. Mikita also won the Art Ross and Hart Trophies during that campaign after tying the NHL record with 97 points and setting a new standard with 62 assists. It was the first time in history that a player had won three major awards in one season. Amazingly, he repeated the feat the following year. He was named a First Team NHL All-Star six times and was a Stanley Cup winner in 1961. Mikita also skated in two games for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series.
No doubt this is a tough time for Mikita and his family, but as we've seen with the stunning recovery of Gordie Howe, miracles do happen. We'll be keeping them all in our thoughts.
GALLERY: Iconic Blackhawks
Iconic Chicago Blackhawks
Pierre Pilote (1955-68)
Although he began playing hockey rather late — at age 17 — the Quebec native quickly left his mark in the Blackhawks organization. A true tough guy on the backline, Pilote sacrificed his body to block shots and deliver bone-jarring checks. He once knocked out both Henri and Maurice Richard of the Canadiens during the same play. Paired with Elmer "Moose" Vasko, the two were pillars of Chicago's 1961 Stanley Cup championship team, which Pilote captained. He was awarded the Norris Trophy three years in a row (1963-65) and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.
Glenn Hall (1957-67)
One of the greatest of all time, "Mr. Goalie" spent 10 years between Chicago's pipes, earning eight All-Star nods, posting a 275-229-106 mark with 51 shutouts, and backstopping the Blackhawks' 1961 Stanley Cup championship that ended a 23-year drought for the franchise. A forerunner of the butterfly style, he was also well-known for getting sick to his stomach before games. Perhaps his most impressive feat was playing 502 consecutive regular season games, and 50 more in the playoffs, without a facemask. A back injury caused him to leave a game against Boston on November 8, 1963, thus ending his remarkable run. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.
Bobby Hull (1957-72)
The Golden Jet's speed, ferocious 120-mph slapshot, and brute strength were an awesome record-breaking combination. Hull, who skated on Chicago's famed "Million Dollar Line" with Bill Hay and Murray Balfour, is credited with developing the curved stick blade and bringing the spark back to Chicago, as the Blackhawks had missed the playoffs in 11 of the 12 seasons before his arrival in 1957. With him, the `Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 1961 and reached the final in 1962, '65 and '71. During his 15 seasons in Chicago, the left winger scored 30 or more goals in a season 13 times, potting 50 or more five times. He was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
Stan Mikita (1959-79)
The first Czechoslovakian-born player in the NHL, Mikita was also the first player in NHL history to win the Art Ross, Hart and Lady Byng trophies in the same season (1966-67), repeating the trifecta the following year. The slick playmaker skated his entire NHL career for the `Hawks, and his number 21 was the first in the team's history to be retired. He centered the first "Scooter Line" between Ken Wharram and Ab McDonald and won the Stanley Cup during his second full season with the club (1961). His edginess is reflected in his time spent in the penalty box: more than 100 minutes in four separate seasons, but he changed his style and won the Byng. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
Tony Esposito (1969-84)
The younger brother of Bruins star Phil Esposito was a favorite in Chicago with his flopping, butterfly style. During his 15 seasons with the Blackhawks, Tony O had seven consecutive 30-or-more-win seasons. He was awarded the Vezina Trophy his rookie year (he also won the Calder Trophy) after compiling 15 shutouts, and he backstopped the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1971 and '73 He played until he was 41, accumulating 418 wins and he remains the all-time Blackhawks career leader with 74 shutouts. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.
Keith Magnuson (1969-80)
A fearless warrior, the gritty, red-haired defenseman wasn't particularly big (6 feet, 185 pounds), but he was always ready and willing to fight anyone who dropped the gloves, including greats like Bobby Orr and feared goons like Dave Schultz. Magnuson's eagerness to scrap (he even took boxing lessons) earned him a place in the record books for most penalty minutes in a career as a Blackhawk (1,442). He played 589 games for Chicago between 1969 and '79, helping the `Hawks reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1971 and '73, before retiring as a result of knee injuries. He later served as assistant and head coach for the club.
Denis Savard (1980-90)
Drafted third overall by Chicago in 1980, the swift, slick center scored 75 points during his rookie season and followed it with 119 points, the first of five times he would reach or exceed the century mark during his 10 seasons with the `Hawks. Renowned for his "Savardian Spin-o-Rama" move, he ranks fourth on the franchise's all-time goals scored list with 377, second in assists (719) and third in points (1,096). He never played in a Stanley Cup Final for the `Hawks, missing their 1992 appearance after his trade to Montreal in 1990, but he finished his career in Chicago and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000. He also served as the `Hawks coach from 2006-08.
Ed Belfour (1988-97)
Undrafted, the Blackhawks signed the irascible "Eagle" as a free agent in 1987 and he became their starting goalie during his rookie season in 1990-91.He went on to win the Calder and Vezina trophies with a record of 43-19-7, a 2.47 GAA and .910 save percentage, and was also nominated for the Hart, which he lost to Brett Hull. During his eight seasons in Chicago, Belfour backstopped the Blackhawks to the 1992 Stanley Cup Final and won the Vezina again in 1993 before departing for San Jose in '97 ranked third in games played (415) and wins (201) among franchise leaders. He also ranks second with 17 assists and still leads all Blackhawks' goalies with 242 penalty minutes.
Jeremy Roenick (1988-96)
The flashy, outspoken center was drafted by the Blackhawks in the first round (eighth overall) in 1988 and he became one of the leaders of a revival that saw Chicago return to the Stanley Cup Final in 1992 for the first time in 19 years. He scored more than 100 points for Chicago in three straight seasons (1991-94) and posted two 50-plus-goal campaigns. After a series of injuries took their toll, he was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996.
Chris Chelios (1990-99)
The defenseman, whose NHL tenure is approaching Gordie Howe proportions, had a sentimental tenure with the `Hawks. A Chicago native, he came home in trade from Montreal and anchored the blueline corps as the Blackhawks reached the 1992 Stanley Cup Final, where they were swept by Mario Lemieux's Penguins. Chelios captained the `Hawks from 1995 to '99, winning the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in 1993 and 1996, before departing for Detroit in a trade. Fittingly, he returned to the Windy City in 2009 -- with the AHL Chicago Wolves -- in a bid to extend his career.