Monday, December 21, 2009

Boston Bruins' Scoring Legend Phil Esposito

By Ross Everett

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.

A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Esposito was signed by the Chicago Blackhawks as a teenager. After some time in junior hockey, he was called up to the NHL 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.

It wasnt long before Esposito started to destroy long standing NHL records. 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. Bruins fans were fond of displaying car bumper stickers that read Jesus Saves; Esposito scores on the rebound.

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 to the New York Rangers where 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. Esposito now 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.

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