Today, Chicago Blackhawks’ legendary center, Stan Mikita, celebrates his 70th birthday.
Stan Mikita was born on May 20, 1940 in Sokolce, Czechoslovakia as Stanislav Guoth. At age 8, Stan was sent out of the communist-controlled country by his parents to be adopted by his aunt and uncle in Canada, taking their surname. He was bullied and victimized as a child for his background and poor-english and hockey became the outlet for his frustration. After playing juniors for the Ontario Hockey League, Mikita was called for his first NHL trial in 1958.
Mikita joined the Blackhawks in 1959, where he remained until his retirement in 1980. The 5’9” center lead Chicago, along with teammate Bobby Hull, to a Stanley Cup victory in 1961. Despite his small stature, Stan never shied away from the physical aspects of the game. He was among league-leaders in penalty minutes through most of the '60s. He abruptly changed his style of play after his daughter questioned why he was always sitting down. From there, 'Stosh' went from 100+ penalty minutes to just 12 in the 1967 season.
In the early 1960’s Mikita discovered that by adding a curve to his hockey stick, the puck would move all over the air, thus confusing goalies and making it more difficult to defend. Teammates followed suit, as did other players around the league. Curved sticks became so effective, the NHL instituted a rule against ‘over-curving’.
Mikita retired from the Blackhawks in 1980 as the team leader in games played (1394), points (1467) and assists (926). He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
Be on the look out for a Mitchell & Ness Stan Mikita jersey set to be released later this year.