Phil Esposito

Philip Anthony Esposito OC (/ˌɛspəˈzt/ ESP-ə-ZEE-toh,[1] Italian: [eˈspɔːzito]; born February 20, 1942) is a Canadian broadcaster, and former professional ice hockey executive, coach and player. 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 greatest players of all time, and is the older brother of fellow Hall-of-Famer Tony Esposito, a goaltender.

Phil Esposito
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1984
Phil Esposito in February 2012
Born (1942-02-20) February 20, 1942
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 19631981

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 colour commentator.

In 2017, Esposito was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.[2]


Minor league

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

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

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 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."[3] 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 three others have reached the 150 point plateau — Mario Lemieux (4 times), Steve Yzerman and Bernie Nicholls — 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 January 1, 2019, Esposito ranked second in all-time regular season goals for Boston with 459 (behind only Johnny Bucyk's 545). Esposito also ranks second in all-time Bruin playoff goals with 46 (trailing only Cam Neely's 55). Often used to kill penalties, Esposito also scored 20 shorthanded goals for Boston over his career.

After his performance in the Summit Series, where he was the 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:[4]

"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."[5]

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

In 1975–76, Esposito was traded because he did not want to relinquish his playing time, even with his age.[6] He and Carol Vadnais were traded to the New York Rangers on November 7[7] 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.[6]

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 Stanley Cup Final in 1979 where, at 37 years of age, he finished third in post-season scoring.[8][9]

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.


Esposito served as general manager and head 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.[10] 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' head coach.

Esposito moved on to found the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning but 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.[11] 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, Esposito made hockey history by signing Manon Rhéaume, making her the first woman to sign with an NHL team. He remains the team's radio colour commentator and 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. (Ironically, Esposito himself could not wear his customary number upon being traded to the Rangers—it was being worn by Rod Gilbert—and chose to wear #77 as a Ranger, the first player in league history to do so.) Esposito was "visibly moved" when Bourque showed the Boston Garden crowd his new number, which he used for the rest of his career.[12] 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

Career statistics

    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

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
Totals 25 18 12 30 29

Coaching record

TeamYearRegular seasonPost season
New York Rangers1986–87 4324190(76)4th in PatrickLost in Division Semi-Finals
New York Rangers1988–89 2020(82)3rd in PatrickLost in Division Semi-Finals

Pop-culture references

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".[16]

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 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.

During an interview on the Marek vs Wyshynski Podcast, author Stephen Cole revealed that research for his book Hockey Night Fever showed that Phil Esposito's name was a bona fide swear word in the Soviet Union for a time due to his performance in the Summit Series vs Russia.

Esposito makes an appearance in the 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.[17]

See also


  1. "Esposito, Phil". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  2. "100 Greatest NHL Players". National Hockey League. January 27, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  3. McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars, page 15.
  4. . CBC News Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars, page 24.
  6. Pelletier, Joe (2008-11-15). "Brad Park Hated The Bruins, Then He Became One". Greatest Hockey Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  7. "Esposito Gets 2 Goals, But Rangers Lose, 7‐5". The New York Times. The New York Times. 8 November 1975. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  8. Remembering Phil Esposito, Craig McInnis, Editor, ISBN 978-1-55192-639-1.
  9. Thunder and Lightning: a No-B.S. Hockey Memoir, Phil Esposito and Peter Golenbock, ISBN 978-0-7710-3086-4.
  10. McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars, page 104.
  11. Switaj, Caryn (April 21, 2013). "Moving in the Right Direction – Jagr Nears Milestone with GWG". Retrieved April 21, 2013.
  12. "Phil Esposito". Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  13. Connor, Kevin."Walking proud in Little Italy"
  14. "Sports". The Canadian Encyclopedia / The Encyclopedia of Music In Canada. Archived from the original on 20 December 2010. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  15. "Hockey and ballet team up as Phil Esposito lends his voice to 'The Curse of Clara'". Toronto Sun, December 8, 2015.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Brad Park
New York Rangers captain
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
Succeeded by
Roger Neilson
Michel Bergeron
Preceded by
Position created
General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Succeeded by
Jacques Demers
Preceded by
Craig Patrick
General Manager of the New York Rangers
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
Succeeded by
Jean Ratelle
Bobby Orr
Preceded by
Bobby Clarke
Stan Mikita
Winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy
Succeeded by
Bobby Clarke
Bobby Orr
Preceded by
Stan Mikita
Bobby Orr
Winner of the Art Ross Trophy
1971, 1972, 1973, 1974
Succeeded by
Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr
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