Tony Esposito, Nimble Hall of Fame Goalie Known as Tony O, Dies at 78

Hall of Fame Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito dies at age 78

Tony Esposito made an immediate mark on the Chicago Blackhawks and a lasting impression on the NHL.

Esposito, the pioneering Hall of Famer who spent almost his entire 16-year career with the Blackhawks, died following a bout with pancreatic cancer, the team announced Tuesday. He was 78.

Tony Esposito, who as a rookie in his first of 15 N.H.L. seasons as the Chicago Blackhawks’ goaltender recorded an astonishing 15 shutouts, earning the nickname Tony O, died on Tuesday, the Blackhawks announced. He was 78.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito (35) stops a Buffalo Sabres shot in first period in Chicago, Dec. 19, 1973. Chicago’s Phil Russell (5) watches as Buffalo’s Jim Lorentz (8) keeps Chicago’s Pit Martin (7) out of the play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)

Esposito was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, four years after his older brother Phil, a forward who was one of the most prolific scorers in N.H.L. history with Chicago, the Boston Bruins and the Rangers. In 2017, as the N.H.L. approached its 100th anniversary, both Tony and Phil Esposito were named among the league’s 100 greatest players.

Tony Esposito’s 423 wins rank 10th on the N.H.L.’s career list for goalies. Chicago retired his No. 35 in 1988, and he had worked as a team ambassador since 2008.

The Esposito family called him a “Hall of Fame husband, father, and grandfather.”

“Tony was one of the most important and popular figures in the history of the franchise as we near its 100th anniversary,” Wirtz said. “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.

Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito moves behind the net to stop the puck for a teammate which has become something of a trademark for the roving netminder, Jan. 26, 1970, in Chicago. Esposito leads the NHL in shutouts with 10. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)

“It is a sad day for the Blackhawks and all of hockey. But with his wonderful family, let us celebrate a life well lived. Tony Esposito’s banner will be part of the United Center forever, as will his legacy as a superstar, on and off the ice.”

Esposito was featured on the NHL’s “100 Greatest Players” list in 2017.


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