Chicago Blackhawks legend and Hall of Famer Stan Mikita passed away Tuesday at the age of 78, the team and his family confirmed.
"He was surrounded by his loving family whom he fiercely loved," a statement from his family read. "Details of planned services will be released when they become available. We respectfully ask for privacy at this time.”
Mikita played his entire 22-year career with the Blackhawks and led the team to the 1961 Stanley Cup, the franchise's first since 1938.
He had his No. 21 sweater retired on October 19, 1980, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
“There are no words to describe our sadness over Stan's passing," Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. "He meant so much to the Chicago Blackhawks, to the game of hockey, and to all of Chicago. 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, "Stosh," was 18 when he made his Blackhawks debut in 1958, and he didn't waste much time making an impact on the ice. In 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1968 Mikita won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. The star center was the league's Hart Memorial Trophy winner, or MVP, in both 1967 and 1968.
His talent and toughness are still reflected in the Blackhawks' history books as their all-time leader in points, assists and games played.
“Stan Mikita will be always remembered as a champion, an innovator and a master of the game," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "He embodied the Chicago Blackhawks. His excellence is illustrated by the team records he still holds today. His passion for the game was proved by the longevity of his playing career. The impact he had on the franchise is proved by fact that Blackhawks fans still wear his jersey to the United Center. On behalf of the Chicago Blackhawks organization and our fans, we express our deepest condolences to the Mikita family and all who mourn Stan’s passing.”
Mikita didn't slow down much after retirement. He spent time as a golf pro at Kemper Lakes, opened Stan Mikita Enterprises and found success in business. He also decoted time to charitable causes.
"Once he arrived in Chicago he never left, becoming a pillar of the city," National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "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."
In his later years, Mikita battled a number of health problems, including most recently, dementia, which his wife Jill said "robbed him of mind."
The hockey icon will forever live on in the minds of Blackhawks fans and hockey fans around the world.