Tony Esposito, Nimble Hall of Fame Goalie Known as Tony O, Dies at 78
He wanted to be a hockey player, “as far back as I can remember,” and after school and on weekends the two brothers – Phil is 14 months older – would go to the rink with their gear loaded on. A toboggan.
Esposito attended Michigan Tech University, where he was selected three times to the All-America First Team and helped the team win the 1964-1965 NCAA Championship. Esposito reached the NHL at a time when playing in college was not generally seen as a path to professional hockey.
With a bachelor’s degree in commerce, he tried his luck as a professional hockey player. “I’m going to give him three years and see what I can do,” he recalled in an interview for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
After two seasons in the minor leagues with Vancouver and Houston, he started his first NHL game with the Montreal Canadiens against his brother’s Boston Bruins. The match ended in a 2-2 draw and Phil Esposito scored both goals. His mother accused him of trying to ruin his brother’s career before she even started, but Phil assured her his brother had done the right thing.
The following season, Tony Esposito was claimed on waivers by Chicago.
During his years in command of the Blackhawks’ net, playing behind future Hall of Fame members like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard, he won over 400 games with a single team. He’s one of three goalies with that distinction, in addition to Martin Brodeur with the Devils and Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers.
After retiring as a player in 1984, Esposito was named general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1988. In his first year with the Penguins, Esposito led the team to the Stanley Cup playoffs, ending a six-year drought in the playoffs.
In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife, Marilyn; his sons, Marc and Jason; and his grandchildren, Lauren and Kamryn, according to the Blackhawks’ statement.
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