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Statues for Mikita, Hull unveiled at United Center

10/23/2011 12:04 AM

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They forged their fame just across Madison Street in a fabled old barn that people around here now refer to as the "Old Chicago Stadium."

Years later, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull – the Chicago Blackhawks' greatest players – are now  permanently linked to the team's current home, the United Center. Their life-sized bronze statues were unveiled on Saturday night before the Hawks took on the Colorado Avalanche, as the famed Michael Jordan statue located not too far away picked up a couple of neighbors wearing hockey skates.

"It's a great night," Hull told reporters. "The only thing I can say is that it is likely, without argument, the greatest evening of my life. To have a bronze [statue] depicting me here where hundreds of thousands of people will walk by and say, 'Yeah, I remember him. Yeah, he could play a little bit,' … it's good to be something. This a wonderful tribute to both Stan and I."

It was a stirring ceremony that was held on a beautiful night in the Windy City, with both Hull and Mikita giving touching speeches in front of family, friends, Hawks brass and a crowd of admiring fans.

Afterward, each player pulled away the black drape covering their statue with help from Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz and President/CEO John McDonough.

Afterward, the "Madhouse on Madison" officially welcomed its newest tenants. Mikita was nearly speechless as he spoke with reporters.

"It hasn't sunk in and I don't think it ever will," he said.

Mikita and Hull, along with their teammates, practically owned the Chicago sports scene back in the 1960s. They brought the Windy City a Stanley Cup in 1961 and ignited a hockey-crazed fan base in the process. Mikita and Hull were known more affectionately as "Stosh" and "The Golden Jet" and their faces became synonymous with Blackhawks hockey.

Chicago Stadium is just a memory now, replaced by an expansive parking lot, but the memories have survived. Now, right across the street, there are two bronze links to that storied past – complete with red and black Hawks uniforms.

Stan and Bobby are standing guard outside the northeast corner of the building, right outside Gate 3-1/2, and they're perfectly placed for fans to snap pictures while remembering two of Chicago's most famous sports icons.

The statues are life sized and were sculpted by the Rotblatt/Amrany Fine Art Studio. Hull and Mikita are depicted in action, right down to the tape on their hockey socks and laces tied exactly the way they were years earlier.

Hull is following through on a slap shot, while Mikita's stick is at the ready – his stick blade even having the curve to it that he made famous.

"Julie (Rotblatt-Amrany) is the one who, I think, did all my work and she did call me a couple times with some questions," Mikita said. "She asked about little things that people wouldn’t think of, like my skate laces. It's such an honor."

Mikita, who's No.21 was the first retired by the Blackhawks, played all 22 seasons of his NHL career in Chicago and is the team's career leader in assists (926), points (1,467) and games played (1,394). He also won four Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies and one Lady Byng Trophy.

Hull played 15 years in a Blackhawks uniform and is the franchise's all-time career leader in goals (604) and ranks second all-time in points (1,153) and games played (1,036). He won the Art Ross Trophy three times, the Hart Trophy twice and the Lady Byng Trophy once.

Hull, who's No. 9 was the second retired, is the first player in League history to score more than 50 goals in a season (he scored 54). He also led the NHL in goals scored seven times, the most in League history, and surpassed the 50-goal mark five times in his career.

Together, Mikita and Hull also led a star-studded Blackhawks team to the 1961 Stanley Cup Championship – and that was the last Cup the organization had won until the 2010 team broke the 49-year dry spell.

Hull and Mikita received championship rings from that 2010 victory, as they were made official Blackhawks Ambassadors on March 7, 2008 -- erasing a long disconnect with the team. Ever since the reconciliation, the pair have been spotted around the Windy City quite a bit promoting the Blackhawks and the team's charity efforts.

They make public appearances at different locations and attend a large number of Hawks games at the United Center – where they watch together from a suite and get the crowd riled up when they're shown on the large scoreboard video screens.

It happened again on Saturday night and this time they got a deafening standing ovation with the Hawks trailing and 4:50 left in the second period.

Earlier, at the ceremony, McDonough thanked the pair fort their hard work the past few years. He said it was a "surreal" moment to help immortalize the careers of two superstars that he grew up watching on Saturday nights.

Putting them in bronze, he said, is just another cherished milestone in the proud organization's long history.

"A few years ago, I experienced a very poignant moment when a fan unfurled a banner from the 300 level that read simply: 'The pride is back,'" McDonough said in his public address. "Tonight, the Blackhawks organization and our great fans truly validate it. These statues represent the timeless reminder that our franchise took another step forward tonight, as we honor the two greatest players who have ever worn the Chicago Blackhawks sweater."