IN 1948, after the Communist party had come to power in Czechoslovakia, the parents of Stanislaus Gvoth decided to send the eight-year-old to Canada to live with his aunt and uncle. "When we went to the [train] station, I wrapped my arms around a pole and wouldn't let go," Stan said years later.

Eventually he lost his grip—ironic, given that after he had taken his aunt and uncle's surname, Mikita, and grown to excel at the national sport of his adopted homeland, Stan was known for having some of the strongest wrists anyone had ever seen, thanks to the 50 to 100 push-ups he did every day. "His forearms are so big," said goalie Glenn Hall, "that his wristwatch would slide off the normal man's biceps."

Mikita—who died last week at age 78—was just 5'9" and 170 pounds, but in his 22 years as a center for the Chicago Blackhawks, he used his powerful arms to dominate face-offs, fire off wrist shots and keep control of the puck against bigger defensemen. "I'm the type that likes to carry it across the blue line and mess around with it until some other guy gets into position for a shot." When he retired in 1980, only Gordie Howe had more assists than Mikita's 926.

Late in his career and into retirement, Mikita—who became known to a new generation of fans as the owner of an eponymous doughnut shop in Wayne's World—poured his energy into a hockey school for deaf children. "It's amazing," Mikita said in 1997. "Kids are falling all over the place one year, and the next year they're just scooting all over the ice. It's always a very rewarding thing to see."