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Remembering Blackhawks Legend Tony Esposito (And Other Blackhawks Bullets)

Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks and hockey community lost a great one yesterday with the passing of Tony Esposito at the age of 78. Esposito was one of the first and best Blackhawks ambassadors following the end of his illustrious career in Chicago. His on-ice accomplishments were equalled only by his off-ice passion for the game, the community, and ability to connect with people.

•   Esposito will truly be missed in the hockey world.

•   Upon his passing following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, Esposito’s family released a statement on his death and his memory.

•   Esposito’s “hey day” with the Blackhawks came in the early-7o’s when he won three Vezina Trophies, the Calder Trophy, and helped Chicago advance to the Stanley Cup Final twice. But following the end of the Blackhawks careers of greats like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Pit Martin, and Keith Magnuson in the late-70’s and early-80’s, Esposito still was able to be the backbone of the Blackhawks and helped them continue to be playoff contenders.

•   Esposito holds the Blackhawks all-time records for a goaltender for games played (873), wins (418), shutouts (74), postseason games (99), and postseason shutouts (6). He also holds the NHL rookie record for most shutouts in a season with 15 during the 1969-70 season, where he won the Calder and Vezina Trophies.

•   He was the first goalie to win at least 30 games in a season in seven-straight seasons. Only five others have since joined him on this list since including Martin Brodeur (12), Ken Dryden, Mikka Kiprusoff, Ryan Miller, and Roberto Luongo.

•   Esposito is also 10th on the NHL all-time list for goalie wins, but accounting for only regulation wins, he ranks sixth behind Martin Bordeur, Patrick Roy, Terry Sawchuk, Ed Belfour, and Jacques Plante.

•   Along with his career records and honors, Esposito played a major role in bridging the gap between the 70’s era of Hockey in Chicago with the late-80’s and early 90’s resurgence. His impacts across the game and the organization will never be forgotten.

•   And transitioning from one former Blackhawks goalie to another, Robin Lehner was on the latest “Cam and Strick Podcast” with Cam Janssen and Andy Strickland. He talked about how the infamous Marc-André Fleury Sword picture that was tweeted out by his agent Allan Walsh “Screwed” him.

When I opened my phone and saw it, I was laughing. I was like, “What’s going on here? It screwed me quite a bit … I got a lot of social media heat for that because it was kind of like Walsh rallying the Fleury cult against me.”

It was not easy being around my phone, my social media during that time. I was the starting goalie trying to go win the Stanley Cup. It’s probably not the best play, but (Walsh) is passionate for his own player.

•   Lehner, not one to hold back what is on his mind, took guff on social media following his appearance on the podcast for talking about how he is underpaid for his resume.

•   I’ll always respect Lehner for being honest with the media and not holding back like 99% of other hockey players in the professional game. It is unfortunate that his honesty, whether you like what he says or not, is perceived as a detriment to himself and his team. I still believe that Lehner should have been extended with the Blackhawks, but I believe that part of the reason that he was not, was his outspoken demeanor and the front office didn’t want a player like Lehner speaking his mind and not being able to control narratives.

•   In the end, Lehner gets to be the outright starter in Vegas, finally, and the Blackhawks get to have Marc-André Fleury for one season to try to bridge the gap from Chicago’s “rebuild” to their “final product.”

•   In other goalie news, after missing the entire 2020-21 season due to a heart condition that required surgery, Henrik Lundqvist is back on the ice and getting ready for the upcoming season.

https://twitter.com/hlundqvist35/status/1425199932839976961?s=20

•   Lundqvist was set to play with the Washington Capitals last season after spending the entirety of his career with the New York Rangers previously. He is a free agent this summer, still looking for a chance to get back into the NHL. It would be great to see Lundqvist get one more run in the NHL before hanging up the skates for good.

•   On the international scene, the NHL is expected to make a decision on participating in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics by the end of the month, according to an ESPN report.

•   The NHL released their 2021-22 schedule with an Olympic break built into it, but they have a plan B schedule without the break, should the league decide not to send players, coaches, and other league personnel to Beijing for the 2022 Games.

•   The “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” also known as “Russia,” are the defending Men’s Olympic Hockey Gold Medalists, winning in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics without players on NHL contracts allowed to play. Canada had won Gold in the previous two Olympics with NHL participation in 2010 over the United States, and in 2014 over Sweden.

•   Speaking of Russian players who may not being on NHL contracts next season, 2021 Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov is still in Russia, working out ahead of the upcoming hockey season. He doesn’t have an NHL deal with the Minnesota Wild at the moment, but reportedly has a one-year, “eight-figure” deal with a KHL team on the table.

•   Translating the tweet, “Kirill Kaprizov is still in Moscow preparing for the next season, working hard at the gym with personal trainer and bodybuilder Dmitry Yashankin, Reebok and Biotech ambassador to Russia. No kidding is Kaprizov.” This is just like something out of “Rocky” but instead of the Russian athlete being juiced up in a training lab, he’s the one doing the Rocky-style workout, carrying tired through the sand in the rain. Intense.

•   Finally, for those with Amazon Prime Video, the “All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs” series is coming on October 1st. The first trailer was released today…

•   The five-episode series will be released in full on October 1st and will be narrated by Will Arnett. After the NHL had struck gold with the HBO “Road to the Winter Classic” Series, I’m very excited to get back to seeing hard-hitting, behind the scenes action in the NHL. With the Maple Leafs’ collapse in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past season being the focal point of the series, the meme-worthy content for the hockey world should be incredible. Very excited for this.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all are dry and safe from the recent string of severe storms that have rolled through the Chicagoland area, and have a good Wednesday!



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.