CHICAGO (AP) — Tony Esposito, a Hall of Fame goaltender who played almost his entire 16-year career with the Chicago Blackhawks, has died following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 78.
Esposito debuted with Montreal during the 1968-69 season and appeared in 13 games. He was then taken by the Blackhawks in an intraleague draft, quickly emerging as one of the league’s best goalies.
The Tampa Bay Lightning released a statement on his death:
“The entire Tampa Bay Lightning organization is terribly saddened to hear of the passing of Tony Esposito today just weeks after his diagnosis. Tony was a founding, cornerstone member of the Lightning family who was a fixture at games and, along with his brother Phil, played in integral role in laying the groundwork for a successful franchise in the Sunshine State when many thought it was impossible. His role cannot be understated. Tony was a true legend on the ice and off of it. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Marilyn, his family, friends and all of those he touched in the hockey community.”
Esposito won the Calder Trophy in 1970 as the NHL’s best rookie as well as the Vezina Trophy given to the top goaltender. He also won the Vezina in 1972 and 1974.