He was one of the most beloved icons of the sport while he remained among us on this earth, but sadly we are now learning that the game Chicago Blackhawks' legend Stan Mikita loved so much may have cost him dearly in the final years of his life.
On Friday night, as per the request of the Mikita family, Dr. Ann McKee made an announcement during the Concussion Legacy Foundation's Chicago Honors dinner where she revealed that Mikita had been posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known to sports fans today simply as CTE. The news, although no longer a shock at this point, casts a very dark shadow over the final years of Stan Mikita's life and it may be a shadow big enough that it will impact how fans view head injuries in the modern day of the sport of hockey.
"Stan Mikita was diagnosed with 2 neurodegenerative diseases that our research has shown are associated with a long career in contact sports such as ice hockey: CTE and Lewy Body Disease.”
Reports of the great Stan Mikita suffering of Lewy body dementia first began to surface all the way back in 2015 and at the time it was described as something of a tweener disease in which a patient suffered from symptoms that borrowed from both Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Although fans in Chicago will continue to carry on the legacy of Stan Mikita in their hearts long after he is gone, it is heartbreaking to know that the sport that helped make him such a legend also stole the quality from the final years of his life.
That the Mikita family asked these findings to be made public certainly speaks to how they feel about the link between the sport of hockey and CTE, and some of the comments made by Dr. Anne McKee on the evening certainly echoed the sentiments of many who have been critical of how the National Hockey League has treated breakthroughs in CTE researched under commissioner Gary Bettman.
"The NHL is nowhere on this," McKee said. "They have completely denied a link. They have denied any responsibility, and it's clear that they are just protecting the bottom line."
No doubt learning that a legend like Mikita was also a victim of this terrible disease will force many to reevaluate the way they look at head trauma in modern sport.