“He was younger, so he had to become a goalkeeper.” The legendary Tony Esposito dies
Sad news came from North America last night. After a short struggle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 78, the brother of the legendary striker Phil Esposito , the no less legendary goalkeeper Tony Esposito , winner of the Calder Trophy, three times the best goalkeeper of the National Hockey League, and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame , has passed away .
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman expressed his condolences to the family and friends of Tony Esposito: “The National Hockey League, the Chicago Blackhawks and the city of Chicago, represented by Tony Esposito, have today lost their beloved member of the hockey family. From the first day he first appeared in the City of Winds in the 1960s, and throughout his illustrious career as a club legend for decades, Tony has left an indelible mark on both the team and the city. In addition to individual achievements, which include the prizes of Calder, Vezin, invitations to the All-Star Games and induction into the Hall of Fame, his unique style, charisma and character helped him win the hearts of fans not only in Chicago, but throughout the NHL. Tony was a real fighter who prided himself on the enjoyment of his acting, which manifested itself in more than just that he became one of the pioneers of the butterfly style, but also in the manner of his communication with hockey fans in different cities of the league. He is one of the best ambassadors for our sport, and hockey will miss him. The NHL expresses its deepest condolences to his wife Marilyn, sons Mark (Kim) and Jason, as well as granddaughters Lauren and Camryn, ”the official Russian-language website of the NHL quotes Bettman as saying.
“He was younger, so he had to become a goalkeeper.”
This is how Tony’s older brother Phil explained why the future NHL legend ended up in the goalkeeper’s position. However, the path of Esposito Jr. to the main league of the world was much longer – Tony made his debut in the NHL on November 29, 1968, when Phil, who was born a little more than a year earlier, shone for several seasons in the big arenas. All this time, the legendary goalkeeper was getting higher education, playing in student leagues, and then, becoming a professional hockey player, spent two years in the lower divisions, playing in the Western Hockey League for the Vancouver Canucks – the predecessors of today’s “killer whales” – and in the Central Hockey League for Houston Apollos.
It was only before the 1968/1969 season that Tony ended up in Montreal, where he made his debut, conceding two goals after six shots in the match with the Oakland Seals, which ended in the defeat of the Canadiens with a score of 4: 5. And already on December 5, Esposito first appeared in the first team, and the rival of the Hubs in that game was Boston, for which his older brother Phil played! The brothers’ first meeting ended with a score of 2: 2, and it was Esposito-striker who twice upset Esposito-goalkeeper.
Tony played 13 matches for Montreal in the regular season, after which, as a substitute goalkeeper, he spent the winning Stanley Cup playoffs for the Canadiens. At the end of the season, the hubs did not defend Esposito in front of the intraleague draft (it was widespread in the era of the NHL expansion – each club had the right to protect 14 outfield players and two goalkeepers), and for $ 25 thousand it was acquired by the Chicago Black Hawks (in 1986 year, the name will take its modern form).
The legend of “Chicago”
The next season after his debut, Tony ended up at the club in which his brother Phil began his path to the NHL. True, they failed to play for the Black Hawks together – Esposito Sr. was traded to Boston two years before the goalkeeper came. Nevertheless, Tony was destined to become one of the main figures in the history of the club for the hawks. The funds spent by “Chicago” on the purchase of the goalkeeper paid off in full already in the first season. In the regular season, Esposito won 38 wins in 63 matches and played 15 clean sheets – this record is still held! Such a performance was highly appreciated in the league, and at the end of the championship, Tony was honored with Calder, Vezina and almost won the Hart, losing to Bobby Orr .
Esposito’s play also affected the team. The Hawks, who failed a year before Tony’s arrival, won the Presidential Cup, returned to the playoffs and reached the semifinals, where they lost to Boston dry. A year later, the Black Hawks reached the decisive series, where they also lost in seven matches, but this time to the former team of Esposito – Montreal. The same fate will befall “Chicago” and in two years, but there the Canadiens will need one less meeting to win the title.
Alas, the goalkeeper will never get this trophy. The 1973 finale was Tony’s last in his career, but in the 14 years he spent in a Chicago jersey, the Hawks never missed the playoffs.
Esposito had much more personal achievements. In addition to two trophies in his debut season, he won the Vezina twice and also took part in the All-Star Games on several occasions. During his career with the Black Hawks, he won 418 matches, of which 74 was dry – both of these figures are still a record for the club, which, without a doubt, gives every right to call Tony Esposito a legend of “Chicago”.
Super Series 72 and Canada Cup
Esposito’s international career was far from being as bright as the club’s one, however, here, too, he managed to make history. The legendary Super Series 72 took place with the direct participation of Tony: although he was not originally the main goalkeeper, he subsequently took a place at the gate in four matches, two of which ended in victory for the Canadians, and another ended with a draw. Esposito became the best goalkeeper of the Super Series in terms of the percentage of reflected shots and the coefficient of reliability, beating both Vladislav Tretiak and Ken Dryden .
As part of the Canadian national team, Tony also played at the 1977 World Cup, where the Maple Leaves lost in the bronze medal match, and four years later, having received US citizenship, played in the Stars and Stripes sweater at the Canada Cup, where the Americans also didn’t make it to the medals.
Esposito Jr. retired in 1984 and joined Phil in the Hockey Hall of Fame four years later. At the same time, “Chicago” withdrew from circulation the 35th issue – unique for those times – under which Tony performed.
All hockey activities of Esposito Jr. at the end of his career were not connected with the clubs for which he played – at first he was in the role of general manager of Pittsburgh, and then, helping his brother in founding the Tampa Bay Lightning, worked there as a scout until 1998 of the year.
In 2017, Tony Esposito was ranked 79th in the list of the top 100 players in the NHL, and two years later, he and his brother went on the ice in Chicago jerseys.
Video rights reserved by NHL Enterprises, LP You can watch the video on the official Twitter account of “Chicago” .