Original 6 hockey was a brand that was so distinctive, so charismatic and so entertaining that it is unforgettable to any fan lucky enough to have lived through it. The league was small, and each team would play every other team fourteen times a season. Players did not wear helmets, which meant that there was an intimacy about the game. The fans knew the player numbers, the familiar looks of their faces, and their trademark ice demeanor. I knew the stats of almost of every player in the league.
Stan Mikita joined the Black Hawks in 1959. I was too young to remember him as a rookie. But in his second year, with a wonderful core of young players and veterans, the Black Hawks took home the Stanley Cup. They seemed poised to hoist several more. Mikita played another nineteen years, and never won another.
This book is told in his own words, although there are some interludes from teammates about him. Mikita is a very positive person, and he tells his story without bitterness. He had an amazing career, but his early life is in many ways even more amazing. His parents sent him over as an eight year old with his brother from Communist Czechoslavakia. He was adopted by his aunt and uncle, whom he came to accept as his second set of parents.
He was considered a demon on the ice early in his career, taking no quarter from any player on the ice. He did not back down from any fights. He transformed into a model of sportsmanship. He also brought his game to an apex where he was widely considered one of the top two or three players in the game.
He tells his story with a gentle humor, and an impish mirth. He considers himself blessed to have sowed the friendships of his teammates, to have graced the game he loved, and to still be revered as an ambassador to a wonderful and unique sport.
This is a light, breezy autobiography with many vivid pictures. For the fan of Original Six hockey, a can't miss proposition.