Tony Esposito, Hall of Fame Blackhawks Goalie, Dies at Age 78

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 10, 2021

NEW YORK - CIRCA 1982:  Tony Esposito #35 of the Chicago Blackhawks defends his goal against the New York Rangers during an NHL Hockey game circa 1982 at Madison Square Garden in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Esposito's playing career went from 1967-84. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks legend Tony Esposito has died at the age of 78.

The three-time Vezina Trophy winner had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

"Tony was one of the most important and popular figures in the history of the franchise as we near its 100th anniversary," Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said of Esposito. "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."

Esposito spent his first season in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens before landing in the Windy City.

He made an immediate impact in 1969-70, leading the league in wins (38), save percentage (.932) and shutouts (15) en route to capturing the Calder and Vezina Trophies. His shutouts remain tied for the second-most in a single season.

By the time all was said and done, the 5'11" netminder cemented himself as one of the greatest players in Blackhawks history. He's the franchise leader in wins (418), saves (24,376) and shutouts (74).

Esposito is one of six players to have his number (No. 35) retired by the organization, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.

His legacy on the ice extended well beyond his playing career, which ended in 1984, thanks to his use of the butterfly stance. He was one of the early pioneers of the tactic, which was adapted and modified by numerous goaltenders over the years.