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Hall of Fame netminder Tony Esposito has passed away at the age of 78

“The Blackhawks and the National Hockey League have lost a legend in Tony Esposito, who passed away today after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. As we mourn with his wife Marilyn, sons Mark (Kim) and Jason, and grandchildren Lauren and Kamryn, we celebrate Tony’s life and contributions to the Blackhawks and the community.

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

Chicago Blackhawks: Tony Esposito was an all-time great

Likewise, four generations of hockey fans grew to love Tony. We were lucky enough to draft him from the Montreal Canadiens on June 15, 1969, for a sum of $25,000. The Blackhawks had finished in last place of the East Division the previous season. Tony immediately took over as the No. 1 goalie, and led the Blackhawks to an unprecedented leap to first place in his first season while registering 15 shutouts, still a modern record.

He was tireless, reliable and a great teammate. If you were a new player in Chicago, Tony and Marilyn always made you feel welcome and comfortable. Rookies were invited to their home for countless dinners, and when the Espositos held their annual Christmas party, everybody associated with the Blackhawks was there. Everybody, whether you were an established veteran or an awed rookie.

Tony’s number 35 has long been retired, but his career with the Blackhawks actually encompassed two marvelous chapters. After all those years of making spectacular saves and hearing chants of “TO-NEE!! TO-NEE!!” throughout the Stadium, he joined the Blackhawks as an ambassador. He was born for that role, too, as he reached out — whether by request or on his own — to fans, sponsors, and friends of our team. He rejected thousands of pucks in his first job, he never said no in his second job.

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 went seven consecutive seasons with 30-plus wins (1969-76). A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988 where he joined his brother, Phil, who played 18 seasons in the NHL. Tony Esposito’s No. 35 was retired by the Blackhawks on November 20, 1988 at Chicago Stadium. In 2017, Esposito was named one of the “100 Greatest Players in NHL History” by the NHL. Esposito has served as a Blackhawks Team Ambassador since March 19, 2008.

Hall of Fame Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito dies - ABC7 Chicago

He was honored at the United Center that night in a pregame ceremony where he joined Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita who were earlier given that title with the team.

Igor Burdetskiy

Igor Burdetskiy

Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & CEO at Hooked on Hockey Magazine
I grew up playing Ball and Roller Hockey day and night somewhat religiously throughout elementary and middle school. The two don't compare though when I lace up the skates and hit the ice. I live and breathe hockey beyond the perspective of "it's just a game" and I will gladly talk hockey for hours with anyone. Hockey is more than just a lifestyle, it's a culture of passionate people who make memories every time the puck is dropped. Hockey has not only helped me get through some of the hardest times in life but has created some of the best memories to date. Want to talk hockey with me? Shoot me an email: iburdetskiy@hookedonhockey.com and let's talk some hockey!
Igor Burdetskiy
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