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

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

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He wanted to be a hockey player, “as long as I can remember,” and after school and on weekends, the two brothers — Phil is 14 months older — would shuffle to the rink with their gear loaded on a toboggan.

Esposito attended Michigan Technological University, where he was a three-time first-team All-America selection, and where he helped the team win the 1964-65 N.C.A.A. championship. Esposito reached the N.H.L. at a time when playing in college was not generally seen as a path to professional hockey.

With a bachelor’s degree in business, he tried his luck as a professional hockey player. “I’ll give it three years and see what I can do,” he recalled in an interview for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

After two seasons in the minor leagues with Vancouver and Houston, he started his first N.H.L. game with the Montreal Canadiens against his brother’s Boston Bruins. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, and Phil Esposito scored both goals. His mother accused him of trying to ruin his brother’s career before it even started, but Phil assured her that his brother had done well.

The following season, Tony Esposito was claimed on waivers by Chicago.

During the years when he commanded the Blackhawks’ net, playing behind future Hall of Famers like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard, he won more than 400 games with a single team. He is one of just three goalies with that distinction, in addition to Martin Brodeur with the Devils and Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers.

After retiring as a player in 1984, Esposito was named the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1988. In his first year with the Penguins, Esposito led the team to the Stanley Cup playoffs, ending a six-year postseason drought.

In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife, Marilyn; his sons, Mark and Jason; and his grandchildren, Lauren and Kamryn, according to the Blackhawks’ statement.

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