Cliff Koroll knows Stan Mikita as well as anybody in hockey and appreciates him as much as anybody who’s met him.
Koroll was a teammate of Mikita’s from 1969-1980 and spent much of that time on his line. Koroll saw firsthand the last half of Mikita’s career, when he went from a Black Hawks star to one of the most respected players in league history. Beyond their playing days, Koroll’s witnessed Mikita’s emergence as one of the treasured ambassadors of the sport and the Hawks.
Mikita, 74, is facing something different now. In January, a Mikita family spokesperson released a statement that the legend is facing “serious health issues.” In the statement, the hall of famer’s family said he has been diagnosed with suspected Lewy Body dementia and is “currently under the care of compassionate and understanding care-givers.”
Not that he needed extra reason but Koroll, the president of the Chicago Blackhawk Alumni Association, is making a point of appreciating Mikita even more. On Monday, he recalled how they were teammates, linemates and how Mikita helped Koroll became an NHL player for over a decade.
“He was crucial to my career. I was his right winger for 10 years and a roommate on the road for 10 years, so he taught me an awful lot about hockey – both on the ice and off the ice,” Koroll said at the Keith Magnuson Scholarship Award Luncheon in Oak Brook. “He was a great mentor, and hopefully he gets through this thing reasonably well.”
Understandably, Koroll said “it’s been tough” for him and the rest of Hawks alumni to deal with. Not just known as a great hockey player, Mikita is respected for his gentlemanly personality and dignity with which he lives.
“It’s a pretty sad situation and we’re all kind of taken back by it,” Koroll said.
On Monday, Koroll and the Blackhawk Alumni Association presented scholarships to Joseph Orecchio of St. Viator, William Spell of Brother Rice, and the Latin School’s Margot Werner. They will each receive $7,500 per year for four years.
Over the last 28 years, Koroll said 91 students have received scholarships from the Blackhawk Alumni Association, totaling around $1.3 million.
“We’re very proud of our program,” said Koroll, who added that 12 NHL teams have called him in the past couple years to find out how their alumni association is run and structured.
Patrick Kane was also named the Hawks player of the year by the alumni association.