Hall of Fame goaltender and Chicago Blackhawks legend Tony Esposito has passed away after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.
Esposito, acquired by the Blackhawks on waivers from the Montreal Canadiens in 1969, won the NHL’s Vezina Trophy on three occasions, given to the league’s best goaltender, and was the Calder Trophy winner in the 1969-70 season as the league’s best rookie.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, and had served as a Blackhawks ambassador since 2008.
“It is a sad day for the Blackhawks and all of hockey,” Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. “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.”
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Esposito made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens during the 1968-69 season, appearing in 13 games, but was claimed on waivers by the Blackhawks following that season.
He won the Calder and the Vezina the next season, and finished in second in Hart Trophy voting, as he posted a 38-17-8 record, notched 15 shutouts and put up a sparkling .932 goals against average.
The next season, Esposito helped the Blackhawks to a Western Division title and an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Canadiens in seven games.
In 873 career games with the Blackhawks, Esposito put up a record of 418-302-148, with a 2.93 goals against average and 74 shutouts with Chicago.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1988, and his number 35 jersey was retired by the Blackhawks that same year.
After stints as a GM with the Pittsburgh Penguins and as the chief scout of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Esposito was named a Blackhawks team ambassador during the 2007-08 season.
Esposito leaves behind his wife Marilyn and two sons.