A posthumous study of Stan Mikita’s brain shows the hockey Hall of Famer suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy at the time of his death a year ago.
Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the BU CTE Center, announced the findings during the Concussion Legacy Foundation’s Chicago Honours Dinner on Friday night at the request of Mikita’s family.
CTE is a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head. It is known to cause memory loss, violent moods and other cognitive difficulties. It can only be diagnosed after death.
Mikita, who helped Chicago to the 1961 Stanley Cup title, died last August at age 78. He had been in poor health after being diagnosed with Lewy body dementia — a progressive disease that causes problems with thinking, movement, behaviour and mood.
McKee said Mikita had Stage III CTE and Lewy Body Disease.
“Two neurodegenerative diseases that our research has shown are associated with a long career in contact sports such as ice hockey,” McKee said.
Mikita spent his entire career with the Blackhawks, beginning with his NHL debut in 1959 and running through his retirement after playing 17 games in the 1979-80 season. He is the franchise’s career leader for assists (926), points (1,467) and games played (1,394), and is second to Bobby Hull with 541 goals.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. He also was the first player to have his jersey retired by the Blackhawks in 1980.
Mikita’s family declined to speak with the media at the dinner. Mikita’s daughter, Jane, accepted the 2019 Courage Award on behalf of the family.