One of the greatest brother combinations in hockey history was the forward-goalie tandem of Phil and Tony Esposito of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. While Phil forged a Hall of Fame career as a scorer, his brother was going the same way from the crease as a preventer of goals, a task he performed masterfully for nearly two decades.


While Phil was nicknamed “Espo,” his brother was called “Tony O,” the “O” representing both the last letter of his last name and also a shutout, appropriate for a goalie who retired with seventy-six shutouts, including a modern-day record of fifteen in one season, 1969-70. For eight straight seasons (1973-81), he played at least sixty-three games, including back-to-back seasons of seventy and seventy-one games in 1973-74 and 1974-75. These came in a seventy-six-game season, proof of his durability and exceptional play.

Just as Jesse James would have been particularly fussy about his guns, so, too, was “Tony O” particularly particular about his sticks. He positioned them in the stick rack and by his dressing room stall in a specific way, and he hated having this setup tampered with. Crossed sticks sent him off the deep end, and any appearance that deviated from what he desired was destined to be bad luck. With 423 wins under his Hall of Fame belt, this was not a lot to ask for.


Goalie Bob Essensa wasn’t finicky about the stick he used in games, but he was very finicky about his second stick, the one a goalie always keeps at the bench in case his game stick breaks. Essensa this is the truth! never used his second stick! If his game stick broke, the trainer had to go to the dressing room to get a new stick, not the one from the stick rack by the players’ bench.


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