On Tuesday, August 10th, 2021 the all – time great Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens goaltender, Tony Esposito, died at the age of 78 due to a bout with pancreatic cancer. Esposito made a strong and lasting impression on the game of hockey and the thousands of people that he influenced throughout his life.
Tony spent the majority of his 16 – year career in the National Hockey League with the Chicago Blackhawks as he played in Chicago with Blackhawks from 1969 to 1984. Esposito also played pro hockey for the Montreal Canadiens for the 1968 – 1969 season of the National Hockey League. Tony went down in the NHL history books not only as one of the best net minders of all – time, but he was considered one of the 100 greatest hockey players of all – time in the illustrious and long – standing history of the NHL.
Esposito made his National Hockey League debut with Montreal during the 1968 - 69 NHL season, and he ended up appearing in 13 games that season. Tony was then regrettably left unprotected with the Montreal Canadiens who were deep in goalies, and he was taken by the Chicago Blackhawks in an intraleague draft for just $25,000. This investment paid immediate dividends for the Chicago Blackhawks that was coming off a last - place finish in their NHL division.
The fierce net defender helped lead the Chicago Blackhawks go from worst to first place, showcasing his notorious butterfly goaltending style only to post a 2.17 goals - against average as well as 15 shutouts which still happens to be a modern record for a goalie in the National Hockey League. Esposito won the Calder Trophy in 1970 as the NHL's rookie of the year as well as the Vezina Trophy given to the top goaltender, and he was selected to the NHL’s All – Star game all while Tony was just a rookie. Esposito won the Vezina Trophy another two times during his career blocking the goal for the Chicago Blackhawks (1972 and 1974).
Esposito finished his NHL career as Chicago's all - time leader with 418 wins as well as 74 shutouts. His overall record of 423 wins and 151 loses which ranks 10th in NHL league history. Tony was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame back in 1988. Esposito was originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which is just across the Saint Mary's River from the U. P. also known as the upper – peninsula of Michigan, and Tony helped lead the Michigan Tech University Huskies to an NCAA college ice hockey championship all the way back in 1965.
Tony’s older brother, Phil Esposito, was a star in his own right although he is nowhere near as famous as Tony. Phil was also a Hockey Hall of Fame center who ended up playing 18 - total - seasons in the National Hockey League. The younger of the Esposito brothers (Tony), enjoyed his first NHL start on December 5th, 1968 versus the Boston Bruins led by his older brother (Phil) who scored two times against his younger brother, but Tony did make 33 very clutch saves during the contest, and the game ended with a final score of 2 to 2.
Esposito helped push the Chicago Blackhawks to the National Hockey League’s playoffs in 14 of the 15 seasons throughout his service time playing for the historical and legendary original six NHL franchise in the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1971 and 1973, but they lost both of those NHL Finals to his much more dominant former team in the Montreal Canadiens.
Tony is Chicago's career goalie wins leader with 418, and he posted 74 shutouts too. Esposito’s overall record of 423 – 306 - 151 ranks at the 10 - spot in the history of the National Hockey League. He was ultimately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988 putting him in the company of his older brother, Phil Esposito. Tony was selected by the NHL in 2017 as one of the, "100 Greatest Players in NHL History”.
The Chicago Blackhawks retired Tony’s number 35 back on November 20th, 1988, and the Chicago Blackhawks paid him tribute once again on March 19th, 2008 as he was one of the Hawks’ greatest players of all – time. Esposito was named a team ambassador for the
Chicago Blackhawks organization during a pre – game ceremony that was attended by other franchise icons and former teammates for the Chicago Blackhawks including Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Denis Savard.
Tony Esposito formerly served as the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the chief scout for Tampa Bay’s pro hockey club where he was hired by his brother Phil. Phil Esposito is still alive at the tender age of 79, and he currently does radio work for the defending back – to – back Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who happens to be a team he helped found and establish. Tony is survived by Marilyn (wife), his two sons Mark and Jason, Kim who is Mark’s wife, and their two lovely children being Lauren and Kamryn.
"Tony was one of the most important and popular figures in the history of the franchise as we near its 100th anniversary," the Chicago Blackhawks chairman, Rocky Wirtz, stated. "Four generations of our family -- my grandfather Arthur, my father, Bill, my son Danny and I -- were blessed by his work ethic as a Hall of Fame goalie, but more importantly, by his mere presence and spirit."
"Chicago felt like home from the time Tony first arrived in 1969, thanks to the Wirtz family and those 18,000 Blackhawks fans who treated him like family every night at the Stadium, win or lose or tie," the Esposito family expressed via a very emotional statement, their family lovingly referred to Tony as a, “Hall of Fame husband, father, and grandfather."
Career Achievements, Honors, and Awards
Throughout his 16 – year career of playing goaltender in the National Hockey League Esposito was recognized for so many accomplishments. Here are just some of the few achievements, honors, and awards that Tony Esposito was blessed with: Stanley Cup Championship in 1969, Calder Memorial Trophy in 1970, 3 – time NHL First All - Star Team Goalie in 1970, 1972, 1980, 2 – time NHL Second All - Star Team Goalie in 1973 and 1974,3 – time Vezina Trophy in 1970, 1972, and 1974, 6 – time NHL All - Star Game Goalie 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1980, Member of Canada Men's National Ice Hockey Team at 1972 Summit Series and 1977 Ice Hockey World Championship tournament, Played for US National Men's Hockey Team in the 1981 Canada Cup, Esposito’s number 35 was retired by the Chicago Blackhawks on November 20, 1988, in 1998 he was ranked number 79 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, and Tony was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame back in 1988.
“Hall of Fame Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito dies at age 78”, espn.com, August 10, 2021.
“Tony Esposito”, hockey-reference.com, August 25, 2021.