On Tuesday, Aug. 10, Tony Esposito died following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. The Hall of Fame goaltender was 78. Hockey fans who remember black and white televisions and rooftop antennae are pausing for a moment to remember one of hockey’s greats.
Esposito debuted with the Montreal Canadiens during the 1968-69 season, but played only 13 games with the Habs before being returned to the minors. He was claimed off waivers, known at the time as the intraleague draft, by the Chicago Blackhawks and joined them for the 1969-70 season. Esposito played most of his 16-year career for Chicago.
In his first season with the Blackhawks, Esposito won the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) and Vezina Trophy (best goaltender). He later won the Vezina in 1972 and 1974. The netminder led Chicago to 14 playoff appearances and reached the Stanley Cup Final on two occasions (1971 and 1973). They lost each time to Montreal, Esposito’s first NHL team.
Esposito is the brother of Phil Esposito, who is also a Hall of Famer. The pair are iconic NHL faces from the 1970s. Both played for Team Canada for the Summit series of 1972, where Tony split goaltending duties with Ken Dryden of the Canadiens. Esposito’s number 35 was eventually retired by the Blackhawks in 1988.
In lighter news, the NHL is in its summer solstice with the top tier of unrestricted free agents claimed and teams playing chicken on any significant trades. But there was one noteworthy announcement this week.
On Oct. 1, Amazon Prime is scheduled to release the docuseries All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs. The program is anticipated to deliver a behind-the-scenes look at the Leafs 2020-21 season.
One imagines the commitment to document the season was made without the expectation the Leafs would be eliminated by the lowly Habs in the first round.
Mark your calendars!
Blue Jays Babble
The Toronto Blue Jays completed a highly successful homestand – in their actual home in Toronto – this past week. They put together a 9-2 record, sweeping a 3-game series with the Kansas City Royals, winning three of four against the Cleveland Indians, and then taking three wins in their 4-game series with the Boston Red Sox. On Tuesday they headed out to Los Angeles for a series against the Angels, just three games back of a wild card playoff spot.
George Springer is earning his keep in Toronto after an injury-plagued start to the season. He won back-to-back American League Player of the Week awards while leading the Jays during their potent homestand.
Toronto began the road trip with a doubleheader split against the Angels. In the second game they loss pitcher Ross Stripling to an oblique strain.
Since acquiring pitching ace Jose Berrios, the Jays had been running a 6-man rotation prior to making a decision on which of Stripling or Steven Matz would be moved to the bullpen. It appears that decision has been made for now.
This past week the Toronto Raptors accomplished one of their most important tasks of the off-season when they inked Masai Ujiri to a new contract. Ujiri is the architect of the Raptors’ 2019 championship team and is a respected and coveted executive across the NBA. Ujiri has been with the Raptors since 2013 and his new multi-year contract expands his role to include vice-chairman as well as team president.
The Raptors shared a video with Ujiri’s remarks where he said, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead this team. I love being the leader of the Toronto Raptors and I’m here to stay.”
Ujiri will continue his global philanthropic efforts and is clear that on the court the goal is to win.
“I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again: We will win in Toronto.”
That task seems formidable with the Raptors clearly in a rebuild. The beloved Kyle Lowry has left for Miami with Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa returning in the sign and trade.
On Monday, Aug. 9, Dragic commented on the trade.
“Toronto is not my preferred destination. I have higher ambitions.”
Well Goran, we weren’t exactly pining for you either. Later in the day Dragic walked back his comments, but between now and training camp Ujiri will likely try and find a new home for the disgruntled “Dragon” who is too good for Toronto but has exactly zero NBA championships to his name.
CFL Catch Up
After a 640-day pause, the Canadian Football League has kicked off and here is your Week 1 summary.
In a rematch of the 2019 Grey Cup, the Tiger-Cats faced the Blue Bombers and it was Winnipeg who came out on top with a 19-6 win. In Saskatchewan, the Roughriders defeated BC 33-29 after the Lions came back from a deep deficit to make it a game in the second half. The Argonauts were in Calgary and it was the Argos defeating the Stampeders 23-20 in a tight affair. In Edmonton, both teams seemed to be a little rusty on the offensive side of the ball and it was the Elk losing to the Ottawa Redblacks with a score of 16-12.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreation softball player and coach, and newbie ukulele-ist. A Newfoundlander living in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat, just as long as it remains respectful. Find her on twitter as @lori10habs.