Further Evaluating Esposito
All in all, Tony O still leads the Chicago Blackhawks in all-time wins with 418. The closest behind him are Glenn Hall with 276 and Corey Crawford with 230. While we’re on the topic of all-time leaders, Esposito is also the current Chicago Blackhawks shut-out leader with 74 all-time with the team.
Crawford would need to post 51 more if he wanted to catch Tony.
"On Tony Esposito, Blackhawks Team President John McDonough said in a Blackhawks press release “Tony is a Hall of Fame goaltender and one of the greatest players to ever wear the Blackhawks jersey.”"
That’s a no brainer from McDonough, however I’d argue he’s one of the best goaltenders in NHL history as well. In his 16-year career, he is 423-306-151, earning him a spot as the fourth winningest goaltender of all time. Additionally, his 76 total shutouts are good enough for eighth in NHL history.
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He was an enormous reason the Chicago Blackhawks went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1971 and 1973. However he was never able to capture one in a Blackhawks sweater.
His only Stanley Cup win came with the Montreal Canadiens, one year before coming to Chicago.
“To tell you the truth, you never really get over it. You’re angry,” Esposito told NHL.com in reference to losing those two Stanley Cup Final series.
Regardless, in 1988 he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. At his acceptance speech in 1988, Esposito said “I dedicated my life to playing goal. I gave it everything I had and I put it above everything.”
It certainly showed in his effort and in the results he earned because of it. Team Historian Bob Verdi recalls what it took to be Tony Esposito, on and off the ice:
"Although not to the extent of Hall — who logged an amazing 502 consecutive starts — Esposito was an ironman. He toiled despite a variety of injuries, his body routinely a mosaic of welts and bruises. He was fastidious about equipment, sewing his own pads. He was famously focused: his wife Marilyn joked that during car rides to the rink she might as well brought a book because there was no conversation. But Tony O endeared himself, not only to fans but especially teammates, by accepting blame for every goal. It was his fault, even if it really wasn’t."
Though Tony may have taken a lot of the blame for goals or losses, teammates gave him credit for the wins. “Tony was the backbone of our team,” former teammate Bobby Hull told NHL.com. “He won many games for us. He was fearless.” Recently, Tony O was named to the NHL’s list of 100 the 100 greatest players of all time.
For more on Tony and his career, check out the video NHL.com did on him above.
When all is said and done, Esposito was a class act through and through. About ten years ago, he rejoined the Chicago Blackhawks as an official “Blackhawks Ambassador.” The position was also held by Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who would represent the Blackhawks at events both within the Chicago area and inside the United Center.
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Today, I encourage all of us to remember Tony O as one of the greatest Chicago Blackhawks, and players, of all time. Esposito was the first Chicago Blackhawk to wear the number 35, and the Hawks did good on his part to keep it that way. Stay tuned for which former Blackhawk will earn the honors of being featured for no. 34.