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Although many of his offensive records have now been left in the dust by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, former Boston Bruins/New York Rangers center Phil Esposito is still regarded by hockey experts as one of the greatest players in NHL history.
Esposito was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and his prodigious hockey talent quickly became apparent. He was signed by the Chicago Blackhawks as a teenager, and made his NHL debut in’64 quickly earning a spot on the teams top line between Bobby Hull and Marcel Dionne. In’67, Esposito was traded to the Boston Bruins along with Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield. Within a few years Hodge and Stanfield blossomed into All Stars, while Esposito quickly took his place alongside his former teammate Hull as the best scorer in the league. Suffice to say that Boston fans were of the opinion that theyd gotten the best of the deal.
Esposito began to shred the NHL record book in Boston, prompting Bruins fans to display car bumper stickers that read Jesus Saves; Esposito scores on the rebound. In’69, he became the first NHL player to top the 100 point mark (combined goals and assists) for the season”he obliterated the record with 126 points, which would be the first of six times that hed top the century mark. He topped 100 points in five straight seasons between’71 and’75, missing a sixth straight season by a single point with 99 in’70.
Esposito’s greatest single season was in’70-71, when he destroyed the NHL’s single season goal scoring mark with 76. That record stood until Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers broke it in’81-82. Even now, only four other players including Gretzky have scored more than 150 points in a season and only five others have scored more than 76 goals in a season. Perhaps the most amazing element of Espositos game was the frequency with which he put the puck on net”Espo had 550 shots on goal in’70-71. No one has since come close.
In’75, Esposito was traded with Brad Park to the New York Rangers for Brad Park, Joe Zanussi and Jean Ratelle. By that point, he had been slowed considerably by knee injuries but his experience, intelligence for the game and nose for the puck made him a valuable component of the Broadway Blueshirts offense and he was named team captain. Until the very end of his career, he remained a dangerous scoring threat that all opposing teams were forced to reckon with.
After his retirement in’75, he remained active in hockey. He served as the GM of the Rangers before helping secure an expansion team for Tampa, Florida in’92. Esposito served as the President and GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning until’98. After stepping away from formal duties, he’s remained a very visible member of the hockey media. He hosts a daily hockey radio show on XM Radio, and has even done some acting appearing in a recurring role as a fire chief on the TV series Rescue Me.
Ross Everett is a widely published freelance sports writer and respected authority on Pay Per Head. His writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sportsbooks and Price per head sites.