Tony Esposito, the Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender, died Tuesday “after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer,” his longtime team, the Chicago Blackhawks, announced. Esposito was 78.
Esposito, who was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, played all but 13 games of his 16-season N.H.L. career with Chicago. Often referred to simply as Tony O, he joined the Blackhawks for the 1969-70 season, winning the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year and the first of his three Vezina Trophies as the league’s best goaltender. He was an early pioneer of the butterfly style of goaltending in an era when stand-up was prevalent.
Esposito’s 423 wins rank 10th on the N.H.L.’s career list. Chicago retired his No. 35 in 1988, and he had worked as a team ambassador since 2008.
“Tony was one of the most important and popular figures in the history of the franchise as we near its 100th anniversary,” Rocky Wirtz, the team’s chairman, said in a statement. “Four generations of our family — my grandfather Arthur, my father Bill, my son Danny and I — were blessed by his work ethic as a Hall of Fame goalie, but more importantly, by his mere presence and spirit.”
Esposito was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988, four years after his older brother Phil, who played for Chicago, the Boston Bruins and the Rangers. In 2017, as the N.H.L. approached its 100th anniversary, both Tony and Phil Esposito were named among the league’s 100 greatest players.
“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,” Gary Bettman, the N.H.L. commissioner, said in a statement.
In addition to his brother, Phil, Esposito’s survivors include his wife, Marilyn; his sons, Mark and Jason; and his grandchildren, Lauren and Kamryn, according to the Blackhawks’ statement.