Sunday, August 12, 2007
Returned from a week long vacation with no internet access and spent a couple of hours (:) ) catching up on Lowetide's posts from the last seven days. One of them talked about a list of the top thirty six players of all time. Which brings us to Stan Mikita, my favourite player growing up.
Stan Mikita's list of accomplishments is lengthy. He won one Cup (the Blackhawks of the 60s and early 70s likely should have won four or five but invariable fell short). He averaged over a point a game for his career, falling short of that mark the last few seasons though he was still productive for a guy nearing forty who had back problems. He also produced nearly a point a game in the playoffs. When he retired he was third overall in career points, second in assists.
You can read a little more about Mikita here.
Numbers and awards tell a lot but Mikita is an interesting player for many reasons. He came to Canada from Czechoslovakia as a eight year old and had to endure taunts beacuse he was a DP (displaced person), one of many who came from central and eastern Europe after World War Two. He was adopted by an aunt and uncle while his parents remained behind the Iron Curtain. When he started school he was placed in the kindergarten for three weeks because he could not speak English at all.
Even as a junior he played with a huge chip on his shoulder. His last season he won the scoring title and the MVP award, while amassing nearly 200 minutes in penalties. With Ted Lindsay as a mentor during his rookie season, Mikita continued this style of play for years. He would run into anyone, including Gordie Howe, who knocked the youngster cold with an elbow after Mikita gave him a little stick in one game. After a few seasons in the league (including his Cup) he realized that he might help the team a little more if he spent less time in the box. He went from being one of the most penalized (and dirtiest) players in the league to winning the Lady Byng in two consecutive seasons. He also won the Ross and Hart those years as well.
The impressive thing about Mikita was that he was a complete player. He was primarily a playmaker but he scord thirty goals or more nine times. He was a terrific faceoff man and an excellent penalty killer. He had the anticipation, the hockey sense, that all of the great players have. And he could check.
I'm proud of the game afterwards. I'm on the ice for five of our goals, I've got a goal and three assists and they didn't score when I was out there. That's the idea of the game. Score if you can but make sure the other team doesn't. From his autobiography, talking about a 6-4 victory over the Rangers near the end of the 68-69 season.
One of the alltime greats and a guy whose career and skill set were pretty unique. The transformation from "Le Petit Diable" to Lady Byng winner. A guy who put up points but was regarded as a terrific two way player year after year. My Dad talks about Steve Yzerman as a comparable and while their careers were a little different Yzerman may be close. Except Mikita was a lot better.
Posted by Black Dog at 3:17 PM