Tony, born Anthony James Esposito, on April 23, 1943, grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. Tony, like most Canadian kids, came from a blue-collar family, as Tony's father Pat worked for the Algoma Steel Plant. It all started in the Esposito household, with both Phil and Tony, playing knee hockey all day long in the basement with a rolled up sock for a puck. Even on school days Tony would get up at 5 in the morning load his goal pads and everything else on to his toboggan and pull it right through town so he could practice before school.
Well at least in the beginning, Tony being the youngest, was forced to play
goalie. He became so
proficient at stopping pucks he found himself playing goal all over town. At 10 he was in the nets for his neighborhood team and let in two goals from the red line. After losing the game his brother Phil came over to him and called him a "blind jerk!" It wasn't long after the game that Tony's father took him to an eye doctor only to find out he needed glasses.
After getting the new pair of glasses Tony in his next school tournament won 2-1, made 77 saves and was voted Most Valuable Player. Tony also excelled in many other sports including football, track + field, and softball. In 1962 the student body of St. Mary's College ( Tony's high school ) voted him "Athlete of the Year" and his teammates on the school's senior football team named him "Most Valuable Player" for 1962.
Tony played Junior A for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and in 1963, after a very successful season, moved onto the Michigan Tech Huskies freshman squad.
At Michigan Tech, Tony studied business administration and in his first varsity season, 1964-1965, the Huskies won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship, defeating Boston College, 8-2, in the final game. Esposito appeared in 17 games during the regular season, posted one shutout, and had a goals-against average of 2.35. He also made the first team All-American squad.
In 1966, the college goaltender was a first team selection, and when he graduated in 1967, he signed with the Montreal Canadiens. He played his first game of pro hockey with the Vancouver Canucks, then in the WHL. Esposito began the 1968-1969 campaign with the Houston Apollo's, Montreal's farm club in the Central Hockey League. After posting a 2.42 goals-against average and one shutout in 19 games with Houston, the minor leaguer was called up to the Canadiens.
Esposito's first game for Montreal came on November 29, 1968, when he replaced Rogatien Vachon in the second period against the Oakland Seals. Montreal lost the game, 5-4, but Claude Ruel, coach of the Canadiens, gave Tony his first start against Boston six nights later. In Tony's first national hockey league start, on December 5, 1969, Montreal ended up tying Boston 2-2 with brother Phil netting both goals.
Though he remained with Montreal for the rest of the season, the rookie appeared in only 13 games, playing behind regulars Gump Worsley and Vachon. He had a 2.73 average and two shutouts, but Montreal failed to protect him in the inter-league draft of June, 1969. The Chicago Black Hawks, who had finished in last place in the NHL's East Division in 1968-1969, largely because of weak defense, drafted Esposito from the Canadiens list. Since he played in only 13 games for Montreal the season before, Esposito still was classified as a NHL rookie in 1969-1970. Taking over the starting goalkeeper position from Denis DeJordy. Esposito had a record 15 shutouts and was honored with both the Calder Trophy, as the NHL's outstanding rookie, in addition to being presented with the Vezina Trophy in his first full year of competition.
Tony continued for 16 seasons with the Chicago Black Hawks playing a total of 886 games in the NHL, winning 423, losing 307 and earning draw in another 151. He also earned 76 shutouts, with 74 at Chicago, to place him among the all-time leaders in that department, and a very fine 2.92 goals-against-average. He also added two more vezina trophies in 1972 and 1974 for a total of three in his career and was named to the NHL All-star team in 1969-70,1971-72, 1972-73, 1973-74, and 1979-80.
One of Esposito's greatest memories remains when Team Canada defeated the Soviet National Team in 1972 four games to three with one tie. Both Esposito brothers where an important part of what has been famed the " Series of the Century. "
In a ceremony in Toronto on September 7, 1988, former hockey greats Brad Park, Tony Esposito, Guy Lafleur, and owner Ed Snider were inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The greatest honor awarded was yet to come, because in November 1988 the Chicago Blackhawks retired number 35 and for the last time Esposito stood on the ice as they raised his banner in Chicago Stadium. Never again would the sound of "To-ny To-ny To-ny To-ny" ring through the city of Chicago.
Copyrightę2004 Esposito's Legends of Hockey
3 Point Limited LLC 2004