Mikita was a veteran member of Team Canada. He only got into 2 games against the
Soviets. The primary reason for his lack of playing time was Team Canada's
tremendous depth at center ice. Since the tournament was much closer than any
Canadian had anticipated, the coaching staff opted to go with their hottest 4
centers and leave whoever was left over on the bench.
Mikita reportedly came close to
leaving Team Canada along with the likes of Gilbert Perreault, Vic Hadfield and
Rick Martin. But he wanted to remain for a very special game - a game in which
he was promised he would participate in. After the 8 game series with the
Soviets was over, Team Canada was to make a stop in Prague and play an
exhibition game there before returning to Canada.
Mikita was born in the former
Czechoslovakia. As a young boy his birth family smuggled him out of the country
because of the heightening political problems regarding communism. He was
adopted by his aunt and uncle who years earlier emigrated to Canada.
This game was very special for
Stan (who's real name is Stanislav Gvoth). He was named Team Canada
captain for the game, and was able to play before his his parents and his
brother and sister. He had visited his family many times once he could afford
the expensive trip thanks to professional hockey, but had never performed in
front of his family.
So special was this game and
always-too-rare opportunity to see his family that Mikita actually left Team
Canada before game 8 against the Soviets so that he could get some extra
visiting time in.
Mikita remembers spending the night
of game 8 in a hotel in Prague. He convinced the restaurant staff to let him and
his wife (as well as a CBC staffer) watch the game in the restaurant.
"All of a sudden, people started to come in.
Most of them were Russian businessmen. We had some empty chairs so we let them
sit with us," remembers Mikita
"When we were down 5-3, I said to one of the
Russians that I'd like to make a wager. He said sure, so I said, 'Whoever loses
has to buy champagne for everybody here.' He said okay because there were only
five or six people there.
"But more people started coming in, and by
the middle of the third period there were about 50 or 60 people there watching
that little TV. After we won, I turned to the Russian and said, 'I believe it's
your turn to buy.'
"He said he'd buy one bottle of champagne
and I said, 'Sir, the wager was champagne for everybody and there's 50 or 60
people here.' When he heard that, he turned white. It ended up that he bought
five bottles and I bought enough for everybody else.
"I wasn't at the game, but it's my fondest
memory because not only did we win, a Russian had to buy drinks."