NHL, Chicago Blackhawks great Stan Mikita dies at 78 years old

One of the NHL’s smallest players and biggest scorers, Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita died at 78 years old on Tuesday. (AP)
One of the NHL’s smallest players and biggest scorers, Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita died at 78 years old on Tuesday. (AP)

Chicago Blackhawks great Stan Mikita has died at 78 years old.

His family announced his passing in a statement on Tuesday.

”He was surrounded by his loving family whom he fiercely loved,” the statement reads. “Details of planned services will be released when they become available. We respectfully ask for privacy at this time.”

Mikita played 22-year Hall of Fame career with Blackhawks

Mikita played his entire 22-year career with the Blackhawks, leading them to the 1961 Stanley Cup championship. Mikita’s Blackhawks also made the Stanley Cup finals and lost in 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1973. He retired in 1980.

Mikita’s family did not provide details of his death. In 2015 his family announced that Mikita had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a degenerative disease that affects cognitive and motor systems, causing problems with thinking, behavior, movement and mood, similar to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Mikita’s accolades

Mikita retired as the Blackhawks’ all-time leading scorer with 1,467 points on 541 goals and 926 assists. The Hall of Famer was an eight-time All-Star and two-time Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player. He earned the Art Ross trophy for leading the NHL in scoring four times.

Mikita is the only player to have won the Ross, Hart and Lady Bing Trophy for sportsmanship in the same season. He did it twice, in 1967 and 1968.

Mikita, the innovator

The 5-9, 169-pound center wasn’t one of the game’s biggest players, but he was one of its most feared scorers. He was an innovator on offense and with equipment, a creative player known for his ability to control the puck and set up teammates.

“He designed the distinctive helmet he donned later in his career, when that still was a rarity,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. ”He curved his stick blade to an extent previously unthinkable, causing his shot to do tricks. He utterly transformed his playing style in his prime, going from one of the league’s most penalized players to one of its most gentlemanly.”

Mikita was born in Czechoslavakia in 1940 before moving to Canada in 1948. He joined the Blackhawks at 18 years old in 1959.

Mikita, Blackhawks made amends after broken relationship

His relationship with the Blackhawks deteriorated under long-time owner William Wirtz before he and fellow Chicago great Bobby Hull were invited back into the fold in 2007 when Wirtz died and his son Rocky took over control of the team.

“There are no words to describe our sadness over Stan’s passing,” Wirtz said in a statement. “He meant so much to the Chicago Blackhawks, to the game of hockey, and to all of Chicago.”

More from Yahoo Sports:
Dez Bryant reportedly not interested in joining Browns
Pat Forde: Rally supporting Urban Meyer should shame Buckeye Nation
Chris Mannix: With LeBron gone, Celtics and Brad Stevens ready to seize the East
Giancarlo Stanton suffers his most embarrasing strikeout of MLB career