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FEATURE: Remembering Mikita Part III - Forever a Blackhawk

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about the late Stan Mikita in a three-part series

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

This is the third piece of a three-part written obituary series by Team Historian Bob Verdi on Stan Mikita, who passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

As a youngster on the 1961 championship team, Stan Mikita figured more Stanley Cups would follow. All the Blackhawks felt that way, but it wasn't to be. Despite some excellent regular seasons, the Blackhawks came up short in the playoffs - occasionally bedeviled by a hot goalie such as Terry Sawchuk of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, the same year the Blackhawks overcame the "Curse of Muldoon" and finished atop the National Hockey League standings, a first for them.

Ten years after that fourth Cup, the Blackhawks were poised to claim their fifth. However, after winning the first two games of the 1971 Final, and holding a 2-0 lead in Game 7 at the Stadium, they bowed to the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2. That bitter defeat haunted Mikita.

Still, he continued to gather goals, assists and acclaim while leaving an imprint on the sport. Quite by accident during a scrimmage, Mikita discovered the wonders of a curved stick. Upon being checked into the boards, he found that his conventional straight stick blade jammed into the crack in the doorway that opened and closed by the players' bench. Mikita noticed that the blade had been bent slightly, but since it was late in practice, he saw no need to call downstairs for a replacement.

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FEATURE: Remembering Mikita Part II - A superstar emerges and evolves

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about the late Stan Mikita in a three-part series

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

This is the second piece of a three-part written obituary series by Team Historian Bob Verdi on Stan Mikita, who passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

Stan Mikita made his National Hockey League debut as an emergency callup during the 1958-59 season. Rudy Pilous, Stan's junior coach who had been promoted to the Blackhawks, summoned the prodigy to the big show. Against the Montreal Canadiens at the Stadium, Pilous tapped Mikita to take a faceoff against Jean Beliveau, a legend in the making.

"He was a towering presence on the ice, around 6-foot-5, had to outweigh me by 60 pounds," Mikita recounted in his "Forever A Blackhawk" autobiography. "I look up at him from the circle and I wound up staring at his belly button. That's how tall he was. My knees were shaking. My head was spinning."

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THE VERDICT: The soul of the Blackhawks

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes a fitting tribute to who he calls the least pretentious superstar you could imagine

by Bob Verdi / chicagoblackhawks.com

Stan Mikita theorized that if he ever put his life story into words and presented it to some movie mogul, the script would be tossed back to him in a Hollywood minute on the grounds that it read like fiction.

But Mikita's extraordinary tale was real because he was real. He was the least pretentious superstar you could imagine. Nevermind how he handled the puck. It was about how he handled people. He cut his own grass, answered his own phone, and if you were a neighbor awakening after an overnight blizzard, you might peer out at your driveway and discover that it had been cleared by a snow angel.

As an icon in the Blackhawks' locker room, Mikita was beloved by the guys. Not by imposing his lofty status, he would mentor upcoming superstars like Denis Savard and Doug Wilson as willingly as he would talk to-and, just as significantly, listen to-- a fourth line winger. If you were a wide-eyed kid hoping to make the team as a rookie like Bob Murray, you would get a phone call in the hotel room of a strange city inviting you to dinner with Stan and wife Jill at their house.

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FEATURE: Remembering Mikita Part I - A Young Life Changed

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about the late Stan Mikita in a three-part series

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

This is the first of a three-part written obituary series by Team Historian Bob Verdi on Stan Mikita, who passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

Stan Mikita, a Hall of Fame center who played his entire career with the Blackhawks, has died. He was 78.

A transformational figure in hockey history, Mikita retired in 1980 after 22 seasons with the Blackhawks. Still, his resume shines. Mikita is the all-time franchise leader in points (1,467), games played (1,394), assists (926), and with 541 goals ranks second only to Bobby Hull.

Mikita remains as the only player in National Hockey League annals to earn the Art Ross, Hart and Lady Byng trophies in consecutive seasons (1966-67 and 1967-68). He also won the Art Ross as the league's leader in points in 1964 and 1965. Mikita contributed 11 points in 12 games toward a Stanley Cup in 1961, was a first team All-Star six times, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.

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THE VERDICT: Humble Superstar's Mantra: Whatever It Takes

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes a colorful description of who Marian Hossa was during his playing career with the Blackhawks

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

During his extraordinary tenure with the Blackhawks, Marian Hossa always seemed to be driving a hot car to and from the United Center, appropriate wheels for a modern man of action. What would surprise is the revelation that he ever incurred a parking ticket, let alone a speeding violation.

Why so? Because Hossa didn't take many wrong turns, on the ice or in civilian life. He just got it. Most of us commit careless acts, because dabbling in dumb and dumber is human nature. But Hossa was a master of controlled spirit.

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THE VERDICT: Emery delivered for Blackhawks

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about the late Ray Emery's impact on the Blackhawks in his short stint with Chicago

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Ray Emery, whose masterful work as a backup goalkeeper factored into the Blackhawks' run toward the 2013 Stanley Cup, has died. He was 35.

Emery came to Chicago on a tryout before the 2011-12 season. Despite an inauspicious performance during exhibition games - he was 0-2-0 with a 4.58 goals-against average and a .813 save percentage - Emery got the nod over Alexander Salak as Corey Crawford's sidekick. Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman cited experience as a part of his decision. Emery had been the no. 1 goalie when the surprising Ottawa Senators advanced to the Final in 2007.

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THE VERDICT: Ward brings experience, character

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about Cam Ward, who signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks in free agency

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

On Sunday, as free agent signings spread throughout the National Hockey League, the Blackhawks annexed a wealth of experience, character and jewelry.

Chris Kunitz, a versatile forward, has been on four Stanley Cup champions. He, his family and their safe deposit box are excited about the Blackhawks. Wife Maureen is from Schaumburg. He's 38, envisioning a fifth ring for his thumb.

Video: Cam Ward on signing with Chicago, backing up Crawford

But a year before Kunitz first ran the table with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, Cam Ward stunned the industry by backstopping the upstart Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup as a rookie. He won 15 games with a tiny goals-against average of 2.14 and was so impregnable that he received the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable individual in the playoffs.

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THE VERDICT: Youthful additions

Bob Verdi writes about night one at the 2018 NHL Draft and the link between Dallas and the Blackhawks

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

DALLAS- If you want to feel really old, or if you already feel old but want to second your notion, or if you're so old that you forgot how old you are, along comes Adam Boqvist, whom the Blackhawks drafted eighth overall in Friday night's National Hockey League Draft.

He's 17, and still looks young enough to deliver your newspaper or run the neighborhood lemonade stand. By selecting earlier than they have in ages and much sooner than they want to for years to come, the Blackhawks solved one problem. When called upon to make their pick, at least it wasn't past Boqvist's bed time.

Really now, how many people do you know who were born in 2000?

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THE VERDICT: History against the Leafs

With the 2018-19 home opener announced as a date with the Maple Leafs, Bob Verdi looks back on the history between the two franchises

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

During this defining decade, the Blackhawks have staged three truly exceptional home openers. In 2010, 2013 and 2015, they began the season as defending Stanley Cup champions. Before a puck was dropped, a banner was raised.

That won't be happening this autumn, but for starters, here is a circle for your calendar. The Toronto Maple Leafs, venerable Original Six adversaries, will invade the United Center on Sunday, Oct. 7. It will be the 650th regularly programmed confrontation between these rivals, not to mention or forget nine playoff series, many of them impolite.

Among other notable home debuts, the United Center christening on Jan. 25, 1995, surely qualifies. With the National Hockey League campaign delayed by a management-labor impasse, the Blackhawks finally commenced an abbreviated 48-game schedule by defeating the Edmonton Oilers, 5-1. Joe Murphy scored the first goal in the shiny new building, assisted by Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios.

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THE VERDICT: Expansion history and success

With the Golden Knights run continuing, Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about NHL expansion as well as the Capitals, providing historical context to the Stanley Cup Final

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Scotty Bowman is getting a lot of telephone traffic lately.

With the incredible Vegas Golden Knights pursuing a Stanley Cup in their first year of existence, the Blackhawks' Hall of Fame senior advisor/hockey operations gladly reminisces about the 50th anniversary of his St. Louis Blues - the most successful expansion team in National Hockey League annals until now.

"Lots of memories, lots of similarities," said Bowman, who coached the Blues to the 1968 Stanley Cup Final in their debut. They paid $2 million, along with five other new franchises to double the size of the NHL. To fend off an application by Baltimore, the St. Louis group agreed to purchase an existing building for $4 million.

Original Six members did not exactly ooze with largesse in supplying players, but St. Louis did coax Glenn Hall out of his annual retirement proclamation - one reason why the Blackhawks left him unprotected. Hall, a Hall of Fame goalie, instantly put the Blues on the map, much as Marc-Andre Fleury has backboned the Golden Knights.

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