Stan Mikita remembered that picture of Bobby Hull in the newspaper, the one where his former Chicago Blackhawks' teammate held up an oversized check for 1 million when he signed with the Winnipeg Jets.
Mikita said some were angry at Hulls decision, crying in their beer, as he put it. But Mikita had a different reaction.
I got up and genuflected and said Thank you, Bobby, Mikita recalled. I keep saying, its the greatest move ever made by a hockey player, and Bobby Hull was the guy who did it. He gave us a new way of making a living. Now we can ask for more money and if they dont pay us we can go across the street and play for the other team. It was a hell of a move to do that for us and for himself, of course.
Six months prior to that signing in June of 1972, Hull and Mikita were in the midst of their final season together in Chicago, part of a Blackhawks squad that would win the West Division for the second consecutive season.
And on Friday night, Comcast SportsNet relives a classic from that season, the Blackhawks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs from Dec. 11, 1971.
Fridays Classic game featured eight future Hall of Fame inductees, including Mikita, Hull and Tony Esposito. The Blackhawks were in the midst of a 10-game undefeated streak at the time, and would go on to win the West by 21 points.
Earlier this week Mikita sat down with us to talk about those times, from that season to former teammates to his love of Chicago, where he played his entire career.
The big deal with this whole thing is my wife, Jill. She wanted to know if we belong here or if wed be happy somewhere else, Mikita said. I couldnt have drawn it any better than what transpired for our family. Someone said Chicagos a town that never shuts down. Theyre probably right. Great people.
And as for that 1971-72 team, what made it so good?
In one word: lucky. But Im kidding, of course, on that one, Mikita said. Billy Reay was our coach, and he gave us something to work for and with and put the right people together. All the fellows were on a one-way ticket to nowhere before that. When Billy had his famous talks, thats what turned us around.
Comcast SportsNet will be re-airing Blackhawks Classics until the NHL lockout comes to an end. Tune in tonight at 7:00 p.m. for the 1971 vintage re-air of a black and white "Hockey Night in Canada" telecast.
Join in on the conversation during tonight's game by using HawksClassics on Twitter.