Legendary Blackhawks center Stan Mikita died at the age of 78 on Tuesday after a four-year battle with Lewy Body dementia.
A stalwart for Chicago over three decades, Mikita—born Stanislav Gvoth on May 20, 1940—was an eight-time All-Star and won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 1961. The Czechoslovakia native was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983 after a career that saw him score 1,467 points, the 14th-highest total in NHL history.
“There are no words to describe our sadness over Stan’s passing. He meant so much to the Chicago Blackhawks, to the game of hockey, and to all of Chicago,” Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. “He left an imprint that will forever be etched in the hearts of fans—past, present and future. Stan made everyone he touched a better person. My wife Marilyn and I, joined by the entire Wirtz family, extend our prayers and thoughts to Jill and the Mikita family. ‘Stosh’ will be deeply missed, but never, ever forgotten.”
Mikita was slight on build, standing only 5'9" and 169 pounds, but that did little to shrink his accomplishments in Chicago. He is the organization's all-time leading scorer and a two-time MVP winner, taking home the Hart Trophy in 1966-67 and 1967-68.
"Once he arrived in Chicago he never left, becoming a pillar of the city," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. "He played in more games for the Blackhawks than anyone and came to be as much a symbol of the franchise as The Roar of Chicago Stadium and the United Center and the classic sweater. We are grateful for all Stan gave to us—his fans, his game, his admirers, his league and his city—and we mourn his passing."
Mikita retired in 1980 after 22 seasons with Chicago, having designed his own helmet when many players were hesitant to don one and was a pioneer of curving the blade of his stick, as well. He ended his career with 541 goals, good for the No. 31 spot on the league's all-time list, though his biggest reach may have come off the ice and in pop-culture circles with an appearance in 1992's Wayne's World, in which he was the namesake of a hockey-themed coffee shop.
Decades after having his No. 21 retired by the Blackhawks in 1980, Mikita was further honored by the franchise with a statue outside of the United Center alongside one of teammate Bobby Hull as well as Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan. During the NHL's centennial celebration in 2017, the career Blackhawk was named one of the league's 100 greatest players.