Phil Esposito

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Phil Esposito
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1984
Philip Esposito, February 2012.jpeg
Phil Esposito in February 2012
Born (1942-02-20) February 20, 1942 (age 72)
Sault Ste. Marie, ON, CAN
Height 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight 205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)
Position Centre
Shot Left
Played for Boston Bruins
Chicago Black Hawks
New York Rangers
National team  Canada
Playing career 1963–1981

Philip Anthony Esposito, OC (born February 20, 1942) is a former Canadian professional ice hockey centre. A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, he played 18 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. He is considered one of the best to have ever played in the NHL, and is the older brother of fellow Hall-of-Famer Tony Esposito, a goaltender.

After retiring as a player, Esposito served as head coach and general manager of the New York Rangers before co-founding the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was the principal studio analyst for the NHL on Fox 19951998. He now serves as Tampa Bay's radio color commentator.

Biography[edit]

Minor league[edit]

Esposito signed with the Chicago Black Hawks as a teenager and was assigned to the Sarnia Legionnaires Jr. 'B' hockey team for the 1960–61 season. In just 32 games with the Legionnaires he scored 47 goals and 61 assists, for 108 points. It was a scoring pace of 3.3 points per game. In a playoff game, he scored 12 points in one game as the Legionnaires advanced to the Western Ontario final before being eliminated. After a sparkling junior season with the St. Catharines Teepees of the Ontario Hockey Association in 1962, Esposito spent two seasons with Chicago's minor league affiliate, the St. Louis Braves, scoring 90 points in his first season and 80 points in only 46 games in his second.

Chicago Black Hawks[edit]

Midway through the 1964 season, Esposito was called up to the parent Black Hawks to make his NHL debut. Centering for the great Bobby Hull beginning in the 1965 season, he proved himself a quality playmaker, twice finishing amongst the league-leading scorers over the next three seasons.

Boston Bruins[edit]

Esposito in 1969.

In 1967, Esposito was dealt with Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to the Boston Bruins in a blockbuster trade. While Hodge and Stanfield rose to become stars in Boston, Esposito blossomed into the greatest scorer of his day. In 1969 he became the first NHL player to score 100 points in a season, far eclipsing the "century" mark with a record 126. He would fall a single point shy in 1970, then reached triple digits again the next five years running. Along the way, he captured the Art Ross Trophy as the top regular season scorer in 1969 and 1971–74, and led the league in goals six straight seasons between 69/70 and 74/75.

Esposito was named to the NHL's First All-Star team six consecutive times (from 1969–74), and won the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player in 1969 and 1974. His Boston fans, celebrating his scoring touch during his heydey, displayed bumper stickers that read, "Jesus saves, Espo scores on the rebound." Esposito, while not a fast or graceful skater, was best known for his unmovable presence in front of the opposition net from which he could score from all angles. Esposito has said: “Scoring is easy. You simply stand in the slot, take your beating and shoot the puck into the net.”[1]

During his prime Esposito centered one of the most renowned forward lines in history, featuring Hodge on right wing and Wayne Cashman left. Esposito and fellow superstar Bobby Orr led the Bruins to Stanley Cup victories in 1970 and 1972, and first-place finishes in the league in 1971, 1972 and 1974.

During 1970–71, Esposito shattered the record for most goals in a season, finishing with 76. The mark stood until 1982, when Wayne Gretzky scored his 77th, 78th and 79th goals against the Buffalo Sabres on February 24, 1982 at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. Esposito was on hand to present the game puck to Gretzky. Esposito also set the single season point-scoring record in 1971 with 152, a mark later raised by Gretzky to 215. Only three others have reached the 150 point plateau — Mario Lemieux 199, Steve Yzerman 155 and Bernie Nicholls 150 — and only Gretzky, Lemieux, Brett Hull, Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny have matched or bettered Esposito's 76 goals in a season. The 1970 season also saw Esposito shatter the single season mark for shots on goal, tallying 550. Only one other player has come within 100 shots of this record, Alexander Ovechkin in 2008–09, in a season that was four games longer than when it was set.

After his performance in the Summit Series, where he was the inspirational leader for Team Canada and its leading scorer in the series, Esposito won the 1972 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's outstanding male athlete of the year and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He also scored the first goal of the series and he scored or assisted four times in the deciding game. During that series, his scolding of Canadian fans, who booed the national team after a 5–3 loss to the Soviet Union in Game Four, was credited with firing up his teammates:[2]

"If the Russian fans boo their players in Moscow like you people are booing us, I'll come back and apologize personally to every one of you, but I really don't think that will happen. We gave it and are doing our best. All of us guys are really disheartened. . . We came out here because we love Canada. They're a good hockey team, and we don't know what we could do better, but I promise we will figure it out. But it's totally ridiculous - I don't think it is fair that we should be booed."[3]

Esposito also played for Team Canada in the inaugural Canada Cup in 1976, on a line with Hall of Famers Bobby Hull and Marcel Dionne. The following year, he would represent Canada once more in the 1977 World Championships.

New York Rangers[edit]

In 1975–76, Esposito was traded because he did not want to relinquish his playing time, even with his age.[4] He and Carol Vadnais were traded to the New York Rangers for Brad Park, Joe Zanussi and Jean Ratelle. This trade was monumental, as Esposito was still a great scorer, but Ratelle was a skilled centre and Park was arguably the second best defenseman in the league, behind Orr.[4]

While not as glittering an offensive force as in his glory days, as captain of the Rangers, Esposito led the Blueshirts in points each of his full seasons with the club and remained an effective scorer until his final season. The highlight of his years in New York was leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup final in 1979 where at 37 years of age he finished third in postseason scoring.[5][6]

On November 4, 1977, Esposito scored his 600th NHL goal at Vancouver, becoming the first player to reach that milestone in a Rangers uniform.

He retired in 1981, behind only Gordie Howe in career goals and total points, and third in assists to Howe and Stan Mikita.

Management[edit]

Esposito served as General Manager and coach of the Rangers for three years in the mid 1980s, during which he earned the nickname "Trader Phil" for the numerous transactions he made. During his tenure as GM, he made more trades than the Vancouver Canucks had made in the entire 1980s.[7] While serving as GM, two of his most famous trades included the trade for the legendary Marcel Dionne and one which he sent a first round pick to the Quebec Nordiques as compensation for signing Michel Bergeron to be the Rangers' coach.

He moved on to found the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning but faced competition from the Compuware Group who wanted to place a team in nearby St. Petersburg. It was proposed to Esposito that he merge his bid with the Compuware Group to which he refused.[8] His reputation and force of personality was widely credited with winning the expansion bid for Tampa Bay—in 1992, serving as the team's president and general manager until 1998. Compuware eventually purchased the Hartford Whalers.

In the Lightning's inaugural season, he made hockey history by signing Manon Rhéaume, making her the first woman to sign with an NHL team. He later admitted in his autobiography that signing Rheaume was only a publicity stunt for the new franchise and that she had no business being in the NHL. He remains the team’s radio color commentator, and also co-hosts a daily call-in show on SiriusXM's SiriusXM NHL Network Radio channel.

Honours[edit]

Esposito was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984. On December 3, 1987, his #7 jersey was retired by the Boston Bruins in an emotional ceremony where the then-current wearer, superstar defenseman Ray Bourque, pulled off his #7 jersey to reveal his new number, 77—dramatically "surrendering" his old number in Esposito's favor. Esposito was "visibly moved" when Bourque showed the Boston Garden crowd his new number, which he used for the rest of his career.[9] Esposito was also on hand in Boston to hand Bourque his retired number after the latter retired.

Esposito's younger brother Tony is also an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Former NHL player Alexander Selivanov is Esposito's son-in-law.

Awards and achievements[edit]

Career statistics[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1961–62 St. Catharines Teepees OHA 49 32 39 71 54 6 1 4 5 9
1961–62 Sault Thunderbirds EPHL 6 0 3 3 2
1962–63 St. Louis Braves EPHL 71 36 54 90 51
1963–64 St. Louis Braves CPHL 43 26 54 80 65
1963–64 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 27 3 2 5 2 4 0 0 0 0
1964–65 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 70 23 32 55 44 13 3 3 6 15
1965–66 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 69 27 26 53 49 6 1 1 2 2
1966–67 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 69 21 40 61 40 6 0 0 0 7
1967–68 Boston Bruins NHL 74 35 49 84 21 4 0 3 3 0
1968–69 Boston Bruins NHL 74 49 77 126 79 10 8 10 18 8
1969–70 Boston Bruins NHL 76 43 56 99 50 14 13 14 27 16
1970–71 Boston Bruins NHL 78 76 76 152 71 7 3 7 10 6
1971–72 Boston Bruins NHL 76 66 67 133 76 15 9 15 24 24
1972–73 Boston Bruins NHL 78 55 75 130 87 2 0 1 1 2
1973–74 Boston Bruins NHL 78 68 77 145 58 16 9 5 14 25
1974–75 Boston Bruins NHL 79 61 66 127 62 3 4 1 5 0
1975–76 Boston Bruins NHL 12 6 10 16 8
1975–76 New York Rangers NHL 62 29 38 67 28
1976–77 New York Rangers NHL 80 34 46 80 52
1977–78 New York Rangers NHL 79 38 43 81 53 3 0 1 1 5
1978–79 New York Rangers NHL 80 42 36 78 37 18 8 12 20 20
1979–80 New York Rangers NHL 80 34 44 78 73 9 3 3 6 8
1980–81 New York Rangers NHL 41 7 13 20 20
NHL totals 1282 717 873 1590 910 130 61 76 137 138

International play[edit]

International statistics

Year Team Event GP G A Pts PIM
1972 Canada Summit Series 8 7 6 13 15
1976 Canada Canada Cup 7 4 3 7 0
1977 Canada WC 10 7 3 10 14

Coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Post season
G W L T Pts Finish Result
New York Rangers 1986-87 43 24 19 0 (76) 4th in Patrick Lost in Division Semi-Finals
New York Rangers 1988-89 2 0 2 0 (82) 3rd in Patrick Lost in Division Semi-Finals

Pop-culture references[edit]

He and New York Rangers teammates Ron Duguay, Dave Maloney and Anders Hedberg famously appeared in a TV commercial for Sasson designer jeans in 1979. In 1979, Esposito and Ranger teammates recorded a song written by Alan Thicke as a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation called the Hockey Sock Rock.[13]

Phil Esposito is referred to in the Barenaked Ladies song "Celebrity", and the Fun Lovin' Criminals song "Smoke 'Em".

A shorter paraphrase of his speech during the Summit Series was delivered by Brent Butt on the "The Good Old Table Hockey Game" episode of Corner Gas. Later in the same episode, a table hockey figure is shown to be fallen on the ice, it is remarked to be Esposito.

Esposito was the punch line for a popular bumper sticker in Boston during his playing days. The sticker read, in larger letters on top, "Jesus Saves", and then underneath, in smaller letters, it read "and Esposito scores on the rebound!"

He has also made two appearances in the Showcase series Rent-a-Goalie, first in a subplot involving the stealing of his DNA and second playing poker with his brother Tony.

Esposito has made several appearances on the Denis Leary created television show Rescue Me. He plays Battalion Chief "Izzy" who also serves as the coach of the Fire Department hockey team.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars, page 15.
  2. ^ CBC News http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-41-318-1646/sports/summit_series/clip3 |url= missing title (help). 
  3. ^ McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars, page 24.
  4. ^ a b Pelletier, Joe (2008-11-15). "Brad Park Hated The Bruins, Then He Became One". Greatest Hockey Legends.com. Retrieved 2013-06-23. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ [2][dead link]
  7. ^ Remembering Phil Esposito, Craig McInnis, Editor, ISBN 978-1-55192-639-1.
  8. ^ Thunder and Lightning: a No-B.S. Hockey Memoir, Phil Esposito and Peter Golenbock, ISBN 978-0-7710-3086-4.
  9. ^ McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars, page 104.
  10. ^ Switaj, Caryn (April 21, 2013). "Moving in the Right Direction - Jagr Nears Milestone with GWG". BostonBruins.com. Retrieved April 21, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Phil Esposito". http://oshof.ca/. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  12. ^ Connor, Kevin."Walking proud in Little Italy"
  13. ^ "Sports". The Canadian Encyclopedia / The Encyclopedia of Music In Canada. Retrieved 4 January 2011. 

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Brad Park
New York Rangers captain
197578
Succeeded by
Dave Maloney
Preceded by
Bobby Clarke
NHLPA President
1979 – February 10, 1981
Succeeded by
Tony Esposito
Preceded by
Michel Bergeron
Tom Webster
Head coach of the New York Rangers
1989
1986–87
Succeeded by
Roger Neilson
Michel Bergeron
Preceded by
Position created
General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning
199298
Succeeded by
Jacques Demers
Preceded by
Craig Patrick
General Manager of the New York Rangers
198689
Succeeded by
Neil Smith
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Bobby Hull
NHL Goal Leader
1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975
Succeeded by
Reggie Leach
Preceded by
new award
Bobby Clarke
Lester B. Pearson Award winner
1971
1974
Succeeded by
Jean Ratelle
Bobby Orr
Preceded by
Bobby Clarke
Stan Mikita
Winner of the Hart Trophy
1974
1969
Succeeded by
Bobby Clarke
Bobby Orr
Preceded by
Stan Mikita
Bobby Orr
Winner of the Art Ross Trophy
1969
1971, 1972, 1973, 1974
Succeeded by
Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr
Preceded by
Herve Filion
Lou Marsh Trophy winner
1972
Succeeded by
Sandy Hawley