Anthony "Tony O" Esposito (born April 23, 1943) is a retired Canadian-American professional ice hockey goaltender, who played in the National Hockey League, most notably for the Blackhawks. He was one of the pioneers of the now popular butterfly goaltending style. Tony is the younger brother of Phil Esposito, a centre. Both brothers had notable careers and are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Esposito grew up Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with his brother, fellow future NHL star Phil Esposito. He played college hockey for Michigan Tech University..
A three-year hockey letter winner, Esposito was a three-time first-team All-America selection. He was a driving force in helping the Huskies to the 1964–65 NCAA Championship and was named a first-team NCAA All-Tournament Team choice in 1965. Still currently the MTU career leader in goals against average (2.55) and second in career saved percentage (.912), Esposito was also a three-time All-WCHA first-team selection.
Esposito turned pro with the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Hockey League in 1967–68 and played with the Houston Apollos in the Central Hockey League in 1968–69.
He first played in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens during the 1969-69 season. A famous game against the boston Bruins, then led by his brother Phil, ended in a 2–2 tie, in which Phil scored both goals for Boston. Esposito played thirteen regular season games, due to both Grump Worsley and Rogie Vachon being injured. However, Esposito returned to the minors when they both returned from their injuries. Worsley was injured again during the playoffs, so Esposito was called again. Tony Esposito served as backup to Vachon, dressing for all four games in the finals. As the Canadiens club was deep in goaltenders at that time, with Worsley, Vachon and other prospects in the system, Esposito was left unprotected by the Canadiens in 1969.
Rise to fameEdit
For 1969–70, the Blackhawks claimed him from Montreal on waivers, known at the time as the "intra-league draft". Esposito had a spectacular season with Chicago, posting a 2.17 Goals Against Average (GAA) and setting a modern day NHL record with fifteen shutouts, for which he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's best rookie. He also took the Vezina Trophy and was named to the First All-Star team at season's end. He also was runner-up for league MVP (Hart Trophy). It was during this record setting season he earned the nickname Tony 'O'. In 1970–71, he again proved to be one of the league's top goalies and helped Chicago finish first in the NHL's West division. The Black Hawks made it to the Stanley Cup Final, but lost in seven games to Montreal. The following season he posted the lowest GAA of his career (1.77) and shared the Vezina with backup Gary Smith. He was again selected to the NHL's First All-Star team.
Esposito was named to Team Canada for the Summit Series of September, 1972. He was the first goalie to earn a win against the Soviets, splitting Canada's goaltending duties with Montreal's Ken Dryden. Esposito posted the lowest GAA of the three goalies who appeared in the series. Brother Phil had an exceptional series as well and was the inspirational leader of the team.
Despite the loss of Bobby Hull, Esposito and the Hawks led their division in 1972–73, but lost the Stanley Cup in six games to Montreal. 1973–74 was another brilliant season with a sparkling 2.04 GAA and 10 shutouts. Esposito won his third Vezina, sharing it with Philadelphia's Bernie Parent.
The Black Hawks declined over the next few seasons although Esposito remained among the top netminders in the NHL. In 1979–80, Esposito enjoyed a fine season with six shutouts and made the First All-Star team for the third time. In 1981, he became a naturalised American citizen and played for Team USA in the Canada Cup (he had previously represented Canada at the 1977 Ice Hockey World Championship tournament). He played a few more seasons in the Windy City, retiring after the 1983–84 season.
DistinctionsEdit*Tony O. was one of just eight goalies to win the Vezina catching the puck right-handed. The other seven were fellow Blackhawks legend Charlie Gardiner (in 1932 and 1934), the Mew York Rangers' Davey Kerr (1940), ambidextrous Montreal goalie Bill Durnan(1944-47, 1949-50), the New York Rangers' Gilles Villemure (1971), Tom Barrasso of the Buffalo Sabres (1984), Edmonton Oilers' Grant Fuhr (1988) and Jose Theodore of the Montreal Canadiens in 2002.
- Was the first NHL Goalie to officially wear the number 35, a common number now worn by many Goaltenders. It was assigned to him during training camp prior to the Blackhawks 1969-'70 season due to the fact that the standard numbers 1 and 30 were already assigned, and after posting a shutout in his first ever exhibition game for the Hawks, he chose to keep wearing the number going on to a Hall of Fame career. His number 35 was retired by the Blackhawks on November 20, 1988.
He retired from professional play in 1985 and was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988. His number 35 was retired by the Blackhawks.
Esposito later became General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins briefly, where he hired former Black Hawks teammate Gene Ubriaco as head coach. In his first years, the Penguins finished 40-33-7 and ended a lengthy playoff drought. After starting the 1989-90 season 10-14-2, Esposito and Ubriaco were both terminated. During his tenure, Esposito is best known for drafting Mark Recchi and pulling off a trade which landed the Penguins goaltender Tom Barrasso.
In 1991, when his brother helped found the Tampa Bay Lightning, Phil hired Tony as chief scout. Legend has it that they came up with the team name during a thunderstorm. Both Espositos were fired in 1998.
In 1998, he was ranked number 79 on The Hockey News' List of 100 Greatest Players of All-Time, 61 places behind No. 18-ranked Phil.
In 2007, Tony was inducted (alongside brother Phil) into the Sault Ste Marie Walk of Fame.
On March 19, 2008, the Blackhawks honoured Esposito with "Tony Esposito Night", where he was formally introduced as an Ambassador to the Blackhawks organization. Then-Blackhawk goaltenders Patrick Lalime and Nikolai Khabibulin both wore Esposito's #35 jerseys in the pre-game warmups, and Khabibulin recorded a shutout in a Hawks 5–0 win over the Washington Capitals.
Awards and accomplishmentsEdit
- Stanley Cup Champion (1969).
- Calder Memorial Trophy (1970).
- NHL First All-Star Team Goalie (1970, 1972, 1980).
- NHL Second All-Star Team Goalie (1973, 1974).
- Vezina Trophy (1970, 1972, 1974).
- NHL All-Star Game Goalie (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 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.
- His #35 was retired by the Chicago Blackhawks on November 20, 1998.
- In 1998, he was ranked number 79 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.
|1962–63||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||NOJHA||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1963–64||Michigan Tech Huskies||WCHA||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1964–65||Michigan Tech Huskies||WCHA||17||—||—||—||1020||40||1||2.35||—|
|1965–66||Michigan Tech Huskies||WCHA||19||—||—||—||1140||51||1||2.68||—|
|1966–67||Michigan Tech Huskies||WCHA||15||—||—||—||900||39||0||2.60||—|
|1969–70||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||63||38||17||9||3763||136||15||2.17||—|
|1970–71||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||57||35||14||6||3325||126||6||2.27||.920|
|1971–72||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||48||31||10||6||2780||82||9||1.77||—|
|1972–73||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||56||32||17||7||3340||140||4||2.51||—|
|1973–74||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||70||34||14||21||4143||141||10||2.04||—|
|1974–75||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||71||34||30||7||4219||193||6||2.74||.905|
|1975–76||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||68||30||23||13||4003||198||4||2.97||.905|
|1976–77||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||69||25||36||8||4067||234||2||3.45||—|
|1977–78||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||68||28||22||14||3840||168||5||2.63||—|
|1978–79||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||63||24||28||11||3780||206||4||3.27||—|
|1979–80||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||69||31||22||16||4140||205||6||2.97||—|
|1980–81||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||66||29||23||14||3935||246||0||3.75||—|
|1981–82||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||52||19||25||8||3069||231||1||4.52||.867|
|1982–83||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||39||23||11||5||2340||135||1||3.46||.867|
|1983–84||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||18||5||10||3||1095||88||1||4.82||.859|
|1969–70||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||8||4||4||480||27||0||3.38|
|1970–71||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||18||11||7||1151||42||2||2.19|
|1971–72||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||5||2||3||300||16||0||3.20|
|1972–73||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||15||10||5||895||46||1||3.08|
|1973–74||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||10||6||4||584||28||2||2.88|
|1974–75||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||8||3||5||472||34||0||4.32|
|1975–76||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||4||0||4||240||13||0||3.25|
|1976–77||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||2||0||2||120||6||0||3.00|
|1977–78||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||4||0||4||252||19||0||4.52|
|1978–79||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||4||0||4||243||14||0||3.46|
|1979–80||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||6||3||3||373||14||0||2.25|
|1980–81||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||3||0||3||215||15||0||4.19|
|1981–82||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||7||3||3||381||16||1||2.52|
|1982–83||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||5||3||2||311||18||0||3.47|
|Senior int'l totals||18||10||6||2||1050||60||1||3.43|