Phil Esposito

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Phil Esposito
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1984
Esposito in 2012
Born (1942-02-20) February 20, 1942 (age 82)
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
Height 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight 205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)
Position Centre
Shot Left
Played for Chicago Black Hawks
Boston Bruins
New York Rangers
National team  Canada
Playing career 1963–1981

Philip Anthony Esposito OC (/ˌɛspəˈzt/ ESP-ə-ZEE-toh,[1] Italian: [eˈspɔːzito]; born February 20, 1942) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player, coach and executive, and current broadcaster for the Tampa Bay Lightning. 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, winning two Stanley Cups with Boston.

He is considered one of the greatest players of all time, and is the older brother of fellow Hall-of-Famer Tony Esposito, a goaltender. He became the first player to score more than 100 points in a season, with 126 in 1968–69, a feat he would later achieve a further 5 times, also becoming the first player to score 50 goals in a season 5 times in a row, including the then record of 76 goals in 1970–71 to go with the then record 152 points the same year. Altogether, he won the Art Ross Trophy as the leading point scorer five times, lead the league in goals six times, was voted the MVP by winning the Hart Trophy twice, and was named as a first team All-Star centre six times.

After retiring as a player, Esposito served as head coach and general manager for the Rangers for two seasons. In 1991, he and his younger brother co-founded the Tampa Bay Lightning, the first NHL expansion team in Florida. The elder Esposito served as the franchise's first president and general manager until 1998; he now serves as Tampa Bay's radio colour commentator.

Esposito was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history in 2017, and the ninth-best player of all-time by The Athletic in 2023.[2][3] His #7 jersey was retired by the Bruins on December 3, 1987, and there is a statue in his likeness at Tampa Bay's Amalie Arena.

Playing career[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 - 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. Centreing 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 with the Boston Bruins 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 to 1974, and led the League in goals six straight seasons between 1969–70 and 1974–75.

Esposito was named to the NHL's first All-Star team six consecutive times (from 1969 to 1974), and won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player in 1969 and 1974. His Boston fans, celebrating his scoring touch during his heyday, 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."[4] He also possessed a combination of skating and stickhandling ability, strength, and long reach that enabled him to "rag the puck," holding onto it for long periods of time in the face of opponents' checks and thus enabling his team to kill off penalties.

During his prime, Esposito centred one of the most renowned forward lines in history, featuring Ken Hodge on his right wing and Wayne Cashman on his 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 four others have reached the 150 point plateau — Mario Lemieux (4 times), Steve Yzerman , Bernie Nicholls and Connor McDavid — and only Gretzky, Lemieux, Brett Hull, Teemu Selänne 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.

As of May 31, 2021, Esposito ranked second in all-time regular-season goals for Boston with 459 (behind only Johnny Bucyk's 545). As of 2022, Esposito was third behind Cam Neely and Patrice Bergeron in all-time Bruins playoff goals with 46. Esposito holds the Boston record for most playoff hat-tricks with four, one of which was a four-goal game versus Toronto in 1969. Often used to kill penalties, Esposito scored 20 shorthanded goals for Boston over his career.

After his performance in the Summit Series, where he was the Captain and inspirational leader for 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:[5]

"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."[6]

Esposito also played for 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 in Vienna.

New York Rangers[edit]

In 1975–76, Esposito was traded because he did not want to relinquish his playing time, even with his age.[7] He and Carol Vadnais were traded to the New York Rangers on November 7[8] in exchange 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 defenceman in the NHL, behind Bobby Orr.[7]

While not as glittering an offensive force as in his glory days, as captain of the Rangers, Esposito led the team 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 1979 Stanley Cup Finals where, at 37 years of age, he finished third in postseason scoring.[9][10]

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

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

Post-playing career[edit]

New York Rangers[edit]

Esposito served as general manager and head coach of the Rangers from 1986 to 1989, during which he earned the nickname "Trader Phil" for the numerous transactions he made.[11][12][13] During his tenure as GM, he made more trades than the Vancouver Canucks had made in the entire 1980s.[14][15] While serving as GM, two of his most famous trades included the trade for the legendary Marcel Dionne[16] and one in which he sent a first-round pick to the Quebec Nordiques as compensation for signing Michel Bergeron to be the Rangers' head coach.[17]

Tampa Bay Lightning[edit]

Founder and Manager[edit]

When the NHL announced its expansion plans in the late 1980s, Phil Esposito, along with his brother Tony, sought to place a franchise in Tampa Bay, Florida. They faced competition from the Compuware Group, which wanted to place a team in nearby St. Petersburg, Florida. It was proposed to Esposito that he merge his bid with the Compuware Group, which he refused.[18] His reputation and force of personality was widely credited with winning the expansion bid for Tampa Bay on December 6, 1990. The Tampa Bay Lightning would start play in the 1992–93 NHL season, with the elder Esposito as the team's first president and general manager.[19]

For the Lightning's inaugural season, Esposito hired many of his former teammates from the Bruins, including Cashman as an assistant coach and former Bruins trainer John "Frosty" Forristal as trainer. He also made hockey history by signing Manon Rhéaume, making her the first woman to sign with and play for an NHL team.

However, one of the Esposito group's key backers, the Pritzker family, had backed out a few months before the bid, to be replaced by a Japanese consortium headed by Kokusai Green, a golf course and resort operator.[20] Though Kokusai Green had helped the Esposito's secure the initial bid, the team languished under their ownership; financed almost entirely by loans, the Lightning were constantly short of cash, hampering Esposito's ability to function as GM.[21] Kokusai Green's owner, Takashi Okubo, never met with the Espositos (or with any other NHL officials), and it was rumored that the consortium was a criminal front for the yakuza.[22] The Lightning quickly fell to the bottom of the league and Esposito fired head coach Terry Crisp in 1997. Even with interim coach Jacques Demers, who had enjoyed successful tenures with the Red Wings and Canadiens, the Lightning lost 55 games for a franchise-worst .268 winning percentage.

Kokusai Green sold the Lightning to insurance tycoon Art Williams in 1998. Shortly after taking control, Williams fired both Esposito brothers two games into the 1998–99 season.


After he retired with the Rangers in 1981, he joined MSG Network/WWOR-TV for the 1981–82 season as a TV color commentator replacing Bill Chadwick. He called games alongside first with Jim Gordon and later Sam Rosen.[23][24] In 1988, the pair called Wales Conference playoff games for ESPN.[25][26]

After his firing, Esposito returned to the Lightning organization for the 1999–2000 season as a radio colour commentator. He still calls home games on WHPT (and previously, on WFLA), along with play-by-play commentator Dave Mishkin, with Bobby Taylor replacing him for away games. Esposito also co-hosts a daily call-in show on SiriusXM's SiriusXM NHL Network Radio channel.


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 defenceman Ray Bourque, pulled off his #7 jersey to reveal his new number, 77—dramatically "surrendering" his old number in Esposito's favour (coincidentally, Esposito wore #77 with the New York Rangers, because #7 was already being worn by Rod Gilbert). Esposito was "visibly moved" when Bourque showed the Boston Garden crowd his new number, which he used for the rest of his career.[27] 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 and playoffs[edit]

  • Bold indicates led league
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 1,282 717 873 1,590 910 130 61 76 137 138


Year Team Event GP G A Pts PIM
1972 Canada SS 8 7 6 13 15
1976 Canada C-Cup 7 4 3 7 0
1977 Canada WC 10 7 3 10 14
Senior totals 25 18 12 30 29

Head coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Postseason
G W L T Pts Finish W L Win% Result
NYR 1986–87 43 24 19 0 (48) 4th in Patrick 2 4 .333 Lost in Division Semifinals (PHI)
NYR 1988–89 2 0 2 0 (0) 3rd in Patrick 0 4 .000 Lost in Division Semifinals (PIT)
Total 45 24 21 0     2 8 .200 2 playoff appearances

In popular culture[edit]

Esposito 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 "Hockey Sock Rock".[33]

Esposito makes an appearance in the 2015 animated Christmas special, The Curse of Clara: A Holiday Tale, both as a young ballet dancer's imaginary mentor and as the actual person performing a cameo in The Nutcracker. He voiced the role himself.[34]

Esposito also appeared in a recurring role for several episodes as a fire chief in Denis Leary's FX show Rescue Me.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Esposito, Phil". Lexico US English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 26 August 2022.
  2. ^ a b "100 Greatest NHL Players". National Hockey League. 27 January 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  3. ^ Eric Duhatschek. "NHL99: Phil Esposito's boldness followed him from the ice to NHL front offices".
  4. ^ McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars, page 15.
  5. ^ "Home fans boo, Espo lets them have it". CBC News. Archived from the original on 2 March 2004.
  6. ^ McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars, page 24.
  7. ^ a b Pelletier, Joe (15 November 2008). "Brad Park Hated The Bruins, Then He Became One". Greatest Hockey Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  8. ^ "Esposito Gets 2 Goals, But Rangers Lose, 7-5". The New York Times. 8 November 1975. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  9. ^ "New York Rangers - All Time Roster". Archived from the original on 8 August 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  10. ^ "NewYork Rangers - Photo Memory - New York Rangers - All Time Roster". Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  11. ^ Duhatschek, Eric (27 January 2023). "NHL99: Phil Esposito's boldness followed him from the ice to NHL front offices". The Athletic. Retrieved 28 October 2023.
  12. ^ Finn, Robin (15 July 1986). "ESPOSITO IS REPLACING PATRICK AS GENERAL MANAGER". New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2023.
  13. ^ Finn, Robin (16 July 1986). "Esposito Relishes Top Post". New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2023.
  14. ^ Remembering Phil Esposito, Craig McInnis, Editor, ISBN 978-1-55192-639-1.
  15. ^ Castro, Tom (18 January 2021). "Rangers' Esposito Era: 5 Best and Worst Trades of 'Trader Phil'". The Hockey Writers. Retrieved 21 August 2023.
  16. ^ Cart, Julie (11 March 1987). "Dionne Asks for a Trade, Goes to Rangers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 August 2023.
  17. ^ Eskenazi, Gerald (19 June 1987). "Rangers Pull a Surprise: Bergeron Becomes Coach (Published 1987)". New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2023.
  18. ^ Thunder and Lightning: a No-B.S. Hockey Memoir, Phil Esposito and Peter Golenbock, ISBN 978-0-7710-3086-4.
  19. ^ "A franchise is born 25 years ago". 6 December 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  20. ^ Stein, Gil (1997). Power Plays: An Inside Look at the Big Business of the National Hockey League. pp. 86–92.
  21. ^ Sandomir, Richard (6 April 1998). "A Soap Opera on Ice". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2008.
  22. ^ Duhatschek, Eric; et al. (2001). Hockey Chronicles. New York City: Checkmark Books. ISBN 0-8160-4697-2.
  23. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; Comings and Goings". The New York Times. 20 September 1983. p. B14. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  24. ^ Eskenazi, Gerald (12 March 1985). "TV SPORTS; IT'S PRIME TIME FOR HOCKEY ANNOUNCERS". The New York Times. p. B8. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  25. ^ Chad, Norman (22 April 1988). "ESPN, HOME TEAM SPORTS COOL ON ICE". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  26. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; Esposito's Blessings". The New York Times. 21 April 1988. p. B16. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 10 October 2023.
  27. ^ McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars, page 104.
  28. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  29. ^ Switaj, Caryn (21 April 2013). "Moving in the Right Direction – Jagr Nears Milestone with GWG". Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  30. ^ "Phil Esposito". Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 28 December 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  31. ^ Cohen, Russ; Halligan, John; Raider, Adam (2009). 100 Ranger Greats: Superstars, Unsung Heroes and Colorful Characters. John Wiley & Sons. p. 166. ISBN 978-0470736197. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  32. ^ Connor, Kevin."Walking proud in Little Italy"
  33. ^ "Sports". The Canadian Encyclopedia / The Encyclopedia of Music In Canada. Archived from the original on 20 December 2010. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  34. ^ "Hockey and ballet team up as Phil Esposito lends his voice to 'The Curse of Clara'". Toronto Sun, December 8, 2015.

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by New York Rangers captain
Succeeded by
Preceded by NHLPA President
1979 – February 10, 1981
Succeeded by
Preceded by Head coach of the New York Rangers
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Position created
General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Succeeded by
Preceded by General Manager of the New York Rangers
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by NHL Goal Leader
1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975
Succeeded by
Preceded by
new award
Bobby Clarke
Lester B. Pearson Award winner
Succeeded by
Preceded by Winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy
Succeeded by
Preceded by Winner of the Art Ross Trophy
1971, 1972, 1973, 1974
Succeeded by