MIKITA, KANE AND HODGSON

by Ron Spence

As I read about Cody Hodgson and Patrick Kane, I think of Stan Mikita. 

Mikita played in 1394 NHL games – over 22 seasons – and scored 541 goals along with 926 assists for 1467 total points. 

Snapshot 2009-05-27 19-15-25

courtesy of blackhawks.nhl.com

He tops the Blackhawks in many categories – except goals – as Bobby Hull scored 604 tallies. 

During the post-season, Mikita was only surpassed by the Golden Jet and Denis Savard in goals scored.

Snapshot 2009-05-27 19-09-10

courtesy of blackhawks.nhl.com

I think of Mikita – with regards to Cody – because both have won the Red Tilson Trophy – not because I think that the Canucks’ rookie will be the reincarnation of the Great Stosh.

The Tilson Trophy is the Ontario Hockey League’s MVP award and the two players won it exactly 50 years apart – Mikita in 1959 and Hodgson in 2009. 

Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis said of Hodgson when he won the award:

“He exemplifies the three things that we had clearly focused upon, which are character, leadership and skill. We were fortunate enough to be proven correct in all three of those areas. His character and willingness to work are remarkable for a young man his age. We feel he’s on his way to becoming an elite-level national hockey league player and a member of the Canucks.”

This could’ve been a description of a young Stan Mikita.

Mikita’s skill is evidenced by his offensive numbers shown above.

People saw Mikita’s character when he was playing for St. Catharines during the late 1950s. He was small but always played big and was often called “chippy” because he “didn’t take any guff.”

How “chippy”  Stosh was, is evident in his stats. During his first 6 years wearing a ‘hawks’ uniform, he led the team three times in penalty minutes, and was second once.

He was called “Le Petit Diable” (“The Little Devil”) in the Montreal Forum.

stosh

But, then Mikita’s daughter asked why her dad was always sitting down – when she saw a contest on tv – and he vowed to change his game. 

He more than halved his penalty minutes during the 1965-66 season, and then registered only six minor penalties in 1966-67. 

Snapshot 2009-05-10 22-24-09

Mikita was one of Chicago’s leaders.

Stan and Shirley Fischler wrote in Fischler’s Hockey Encyclopedia, “If any single player can be described as the guts of a hockey team, Stan Mikita, the shifty Chicago Black Hawk center, is precisely that man.”

Being the leader that he was, Mikita credited Bobby Hull, rather than himself: “I never considered myself to be in the same category as Bobby Hull. He was the spirit of our team.”

Stan Mikita led by example, which is evidenced by his penalty stats.

By 1968-69 the Big Bad, Bruins were terrorizing NHL opponents, and a few years later the Broad St. Bullies were pillaging rivals. 

So Mikita gave up his Lady Byng play, and his penalty minutes more than tripled when the NHL started fighting and brawling.

Stan Makita’s character, leadership, and skill resulted in him becoming the first player in NHL history to win the Art Ross, Hart and Lady Byng trophies all in the same season – 1966-67.

*****

So, why does Patrick Kane remind me of Mikita, besides being highly skilled and playing for the Chicago Blackhawks?

It’s more of a contrast – an irony – that brings the two players together in my head.

Patrick Kane was born into an upper-middle class life in Buffalo. He had things easy all of his life.

Mikita was born Stanislaus Guoth in Sokolce, Slovakia, and emigrated to Canada in 1948. He was eight-years-old and settled in St. Catharines, Ontario with his aunt and uncle and took their family name of Mikita.

The year that Mikita immigrated, there was a coup d’état in Czech and it became a satellite of the Soviet Union. The government arrested anyone who disagreed with them – including Catholic Church officials – education was ripped apart, and private ownership banished. 

Mikita came from hard times in Europe, and arrived in a country tough on foreigners after the war. 

“Stan Mikita sounded more like the guy who put a new roof on your aunt’s bungalow,” wrote hockeenight.com, “or fixed your grandfather’s Rambler. Stan Mikita had a name like half the city of Chicago. One of us.”

Contrast this with the spoilt Patrick Kane – who punches out cab drivers, or mechanics….

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