Hall of Fame goaltender Tony Esposito, who was a fixture for the Chicago Blackhawks, has died at the age of 78.
Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz said in a statement Tuesday that Esposito had a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.
Chicago claimed Esposito from the Montreal Canadiens in what was then an intra-league draft in 1969. He became a Blackhawks institution. In his first full season, he was an All-Star, won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender.
He played 15 years in Chicago, winning the Vezina twice more and making four more All-Star teams.
“The National Hockey League, the Chicago Blackhawks and the city of Chicago lost a beloved member of the hockey family earlier today with the passing of Tony Esposito,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “From his arrival in the Windy City in the late 1960s through an illustrious playing career and decades as a franchise icon, Tony left an indelible mark — both on the ice and in the community — over the next 52 years.
“It was Esposito’s style, charisma and heart that endeared him most to hockey fans not only in Chicago but across the NHL. ‘Tony O’ was a fierce competitor who also took great pride in being an entertainer, whether it was with his pioneering butterfly style during his playing days or interacting with fans across the League as one of this game’s great ambassadors. The hockey world will miss him greatly.”