Hall of Fame hockey goaltender Tony Esposito died Tuesday at age 78 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, according to a statement from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Esposito was a goaltender in the NHL for 16 seasons from 1968 to 1984. After being a member of the 1968-69 Stanley Cup Champion Montreal Canadiens as a rookie, Esposito joined the Blackhawks, where he played the final 15 seasons of his NHL career.
“As we mourn with his wife Marilyn, sons Mark (Kim) and Jason, and grandchildren Lauren and Kamryn, we celebrate Tony’s life and contributions to the Blackhawks and the community,” Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement: “The National Hockey League, the Chicago Blackhawks and the city of Chicago lost a beloved member of the hockey family earlier today with the passing of Tony Esposito. 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.”
Esposito was a six-time NHL All-Star, including five straight seasons between 1970 and 1974. He won the Vezina Trophy winner as the top goaltender in the league three times – 1970, 1972, 1974 – and was named the NHL’s top rookie in 1970.
Esposito was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, following in the footsteps of his older brother Phil Esposito, who was inducted in 1984.
The Blackhawks retired Esposito’s No. 35 on November 20, 1988.
“Tony was one of the most important and popular figures in the history of the franchise as we near its 100th anniversary,” Wirtz said. “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.
“It is a sad day for the Blackhawks and all of hockey. But with his wonderful family, let us celebrate a life well lived. Tony Esposito’s banner will be part of the United Center forever, as will his legacy as a superstar, on and off the ice.”
Esposito was featured on the NHL’s “100 Greatest Players” list in 2017.
CNN’s Amir Vera contributed to this report.