I never had the pleasure of watching Stan Mikita play hockey live. Thanks to the year I was born, I didn't even watch him on TV.
What I do remember was ever since I started following this Blackhawks team as a young gaffer in the 80's, the legend of Stosh reigned supreme.
Over time as a Hawks fan, I have consumed as many games and highlights as possible from past eras, which was hard to miss gameplay from the impressive 22-year run Stan had, all with the Chicago Blackhawks.
He was a pillar of greatness and had that character of being a winner even though he only has 1 Stanley Cup to his name. #21 was (and still is) a great reminder to Blackhawks fans of how great it is to be cheering for this team which possessed players like Stan.
This reminder was very much needed in those really difficult years in the 90s-2000s for Hawks fans and judging by the message boards here some days, maybe still should act as a bucket of cold water.
He stood as one of the faces of the franchise as a hockey player and human off the ice.
I loved hearing stories this week after his passing from media, current and former players, as well as on our message boards here.
Here are a couple of my favourites:
* "Stan and I were good friends and news of his passing breaks my heart. He spent his entire career with the Blackhawks and that shows how loyal he was." –Blackhawks Ambassador Tony Esposito (courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks)
* So sad to hear about the passing of Stan Mikita. My condolences to his wife Jill, Jane, Chris and the entire Mikita Family. Stan was a great man. A friend and a mentor to me since the early 80's. He loved his family dearly... I will miss you my friend. (courtesy of Troy Murray / @muzz19)
I also enjoyed Eddie O's take on how Stan could have played in any era, even today's NHL. When you watch highlights floating around, you can see why he would say that. Stan had tons of skill, smarts and determination as a player.
Stan won a Championship and you can all google the awards. As much as it was Incredible that one player could win a Hart, Art Ross and Lady Byng trophy in the same year, I think it's even more impressive for him to win the Lady Byng in 1967 and 1968 after having 154 PIMs in 1965.
Did he hit up anger management classes?
Well, not exactly. The story is that after a road trip, Stan came home to his wife, telling him that their daughter, Meg, was watching the Hawks games and said "Mommy, why does Daddy spend so much time sitting down?" And that was the type of guy he was; Stan changes his ways after that because family meant everything to him.
Stan will always sit as one of the great sports figures in Chicago.
Even if you didn't get to see the guy play, you should be forever grateful for the heart and soul he put in the Chicago Blackhawks organization. If you did get to see him live, then I'm really jealous.
It's rare to see that type of loyalty and I'm so happy we're able to call Stan Mikita our own for as long as we want.
May you find your peace on the other side, #21!