NHL Icon Tony Esposito Dies at 78 After Pancreatic Cancer Battle

by Keeli Parkey

If you’re a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks – and of hockey in general – Tony Esposito is a figure that most likely looms large in your mind. Sadly, the hockey superstar has passed away.

According to TMZ, the famous goalie and NHL legend passed away from pancreatic cancer on Tuesday, Aug. 9. Esposito was 78 years old at the time of his death. Officials with the famous league and hockey fans across the country mourned the loss.

“The hockey world will miss him greatly. The NHL family extends its deepest sympathies to his wife, Marilyn, sons Mark (Kim) and Jason, and grandchildren Lauren and Kamryn,” Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL shared in a statement released by the league.

The Chicago Blackhawks organization also mourned the loss of Tony Esposito. Like the NHL, the team also issued a statement about the late goaltender. Prior to his death, the organization retired Esposito’s number 35 uniform.

“It is a sad day for the Blackhawks and all of hockey. But, with his wonderful family, let us celebrate a life well lived,” the Chicago Blackhawks shared in a statement. “Tony Esposito’s banner will be part of the United Center forever, as will his legacy as a superstar, on and off the ice.”

The Late Tony Esposito Received the Vezina Trophy Three Different Times

Tony Esposito became a member of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1969. He was a key figure on the team for 15 years. During that time, he was the recipient of the Vezina Trophy on three occasions. According to the official website of the NHL, the Vezina Trophy is a prize given to the goaltender considered the best in the league each year. The prize was first awarded in 1927.

Interestingly, Tony Esposito shared the award with Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent for the 1973-1974 season. The Flyers and the Blackhawks tied that season for allowing the fewest goals. This season marked the only time two goaltenders tied for and shared the Vezina Trophy.

It didn’t take long for Esposito to make a name for himself in the NHL. According to ESPN, he was an all-star in his first full season. He also Calder Trophy, which recognized him as the best rookie that season. He also won his first Vezina Trophy in his inaugural season in the league.

During his professional hockey career, Tony Esposito was an all-star on five different occasions. His professional career stats include a record of 418-302. He also had a 2.93 goals-against average. Thanks to his efforts on the ice during his professional career, Esposito made it into the Hockey Hall of Fame. His induction took place in 1988.

Interestingly, hockey talent ran in the family of Tony Esposito. His brother, Phil Esposito, was also a major star in the NHL.