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25 IN 25: Saluting a Legend

On Oct. 7, 2018, the Blackhawks paid tribute to the late Stan Mikita, a Hall of Famer and the franchise's leader in points and games played

by Bob Verdi /

To celebrate 25 years of Blackhawks hockey at the United Center, looks back on the top 25 moments with '25 in 25'

Before the Blackhawks began their 2018-19 home schedule, they honored an absent friend: Stan Mikita, who played his entire Hall of Fame career in Chicago, and three decades after he retired, remains the leading points producer in franchise history. 

Mikita passed away at age 78 in August, and on this night, October 7, 2018, his family gathered at center ice of the United Center. Wife Jill, their four children, grandchildren, along with Stan's fellow Blackhawk ambassadors - Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito, Denis Savard and Chris Chelios. Stan's amazing story was celebrated on a moving three-minute video. 

Pat Foley, the team's Hall of Fame broadcaster, then beckoned the sellout crowd of 21,812 for 21 seconds of silence. Mikita wore No. 21 for 22 seasons, and he was the first Blackhawk to have his sweater retired. At either end of the rink, behind each net, a "21" was emblazoned onto the ice, to remain there for the entire season. So would the "21" patches on uniforms of active Blackhawks. 

Video: 25 in 25: Saluting Stan Mikita

"It's been overwhelming," said Jill. "Stan would have thought this was too much. Playing hockey was his job, and he did it well, but he didn't go around acting like a star. I mean, if he had to at home, he washed the floors. So he wouldn't have wanted all this fuss." 

Exactly. Stan was more than an icon in skates. He was a pillar of the community, and a beloved figure in a city he called home after leaving his native Czechoslovakia as a child. 

Stan never forgot his humble roots, and as the soul of the Blackhawks, urged young teammates to give back to worthy causes. Many of Stan's finest contributions occurred as a civilian, in street shoes, away from cameras. He didn't just dabble in charitable endeavors, he surrounded them. 

Jill dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff between Blackhawks' captain Jonathan Toews and John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs, an Original Six member Stan knew only too well. Most of their games were of a truculent sort, but as Hull praised, the diminutive Mikita was "pound for pound, the greatest hockey player ever." No. 21 vexed opponents with skill, creativity and toughness. 

"I wish I could hear his voice one more time," concluded Jill. "I wish I could hear that laugh again. We had a wonderful life together, but I have to let go." 

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