The Great Tony Esposito of the Chicago Blackhawks
Tony Esposito played in the National Hockey League from 1968-69 to 1983-84. He began his career as a Montreal Canadiens prospect and was called up to the team for thirteen games during the 1968-69 season when regular goalies Rogie Vachon and Lorne Worsley both were injured. The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup that year but Esposito had no part of it. Tony spent most of that season in the Central Hockey League with the Houston Apollos.
Esposito got his big break the following season, 1969-70, when he was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks. Tony was an instant hit in net, playing 63 of the team’s 76 regular season games. He earned the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year and the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender. It would mark his first of three Vezinas. His 15 shutouts that season remain a Chicago Black Hawks single season record. It was the first time his picture made it onto a hockey card. The 1969-70 O-Pee-Chee Tony Esposito rookie card is valued at $150.
In his second year with Chicago, Esposito was instrumental in the Black Hawks charge to the Stanley Cup finals. Chicago met up with the Montreal Canadiens and Tony nearly exacted revenge on the team that traded him away but Chicago lost in seven games.
Esposito played an enormous part, along with brother Phil, in Team Canada’s monumental victory over the Soviet Union at the 1972 Summit Series. Tony played four of the eight games in the series.
Tony remained a Chicago Black Hawk until his retirement after the 1983-84 season. Most of the goaltending section of the Chicago Black Hawks record book is dedicated to Esposito. Most career shutouts, most shutouts in a season, most games, most minutes, most wins, most losses, most ties, most points by a goalie... The list goes on and on.
Esposito retired with 76 career regular season shutouts, 74 with Chicago and two with Montreal. That total still has him currently tied for ninth with another former Chicago goalie, Ed Belfour. Tony played in six NHL All-Star games during his career. He entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988. His number 35 was retired by the Chicago Blackhawks ten years later.
With Phil Esposito entering the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984, the Esposito brothers are among just a handful of families to have two members in the Hockey Hall of Fame. In a fine example of brotherly love, Phil scored two goals on Tony in Tony’s first NHL game.