Tony Esposito and the Great Goalies of All-Time

A look at some of the greatest netminders in the history of the game. Krejci door not closed - according to coach. Lundqvist's hope. Pettersson gearing up for the new season.

If you're in the mood for a good, old-fashioned argument, pick your favorite goaltender and tell me he's the greatest puck-stopper of all-time.

Or, 30th best; I don't care.

I'm prompted to pontificate on puck-stoppers following Tony Esposito's recent death and the many, well-deserved plaudits he received.

The more I read -- and remembered about Tony -- the more I wondered where he deserved to be placed on the All Time Top Goalies list.

Right off the bat, there's a problem. Tony, who never won a Stanley Cup as a full-time netminder, can't be compared to a goalie such as Toronto's Turk Broda, who won five Cups but never wore a mask.

On The Hockey News "Top 100 Goalies Of All-Time" list Broda was rated tenth best. Yet, Glenn (Mister Goalie) Hall, who paced Chicago to his one and only Cup, ranked sixth on THN's scale. How come?

I'll tell you how come: Hall played 502 consecutive games without a mask.

Think about that for a minute. And, while you're at it, remember that the Blackhawks were all Hull-Mikita offense during Hall's reign.

It has been said that anxiety was the key to Hall's longevity. That and vomiting.

"I played well when I threw up before games," he explained. "If I was just whistling relaxed, I was horseshit, so I forced myself."

Arguably the most relaxed Hall of Game goalie was New Jersey's Martin Brodeur. He was so easy-going he did a tv interview an hour before Game Seven of the 2003 Cup Final and then blanked Anaheim.

An argument could be made for Brodeur in the Best Ever category since he's the all-time leader in two key categories, wins and shutouts. 

One of Brodeur's goaltending idols, Jacques Plante, won four Cups in a row (1956-1959). It wasn't until November 1, 1959 that Plante donned a mask for the first time in NHL history, setting a new precedent. 

Hockey News columnist Ken Campbell claimed in the THN best goalie issue that Plante deserves to be in first place.

"When you combine Plante's stats and his stature," wrote Campbell, "you have a goaltender who played at the highest level of sustained excellence and revolutionized the position."

Can't argue with that. 

Then again, rating the goalies with acute accuracy is impossible. There are just too many parameters to consider. Barefaced goalies played a totally different style than a 24th rated Henrik Lundqvist who often used his mask to make a save.

Which brings me back to the late Tony Esposito. In a sense, he made a good case for his No. 17 rating when he rightfully boasted that he played in  the NHL until retiring at age 40. 

"What I like about my career," Tony concluded, "was being able to play into my 30's at a high level."

Fair enough!


THE JIVE: Gotta give Bruce Cassidy credit. No doubt while whiling away the Dog Days of summer, the Bruins coach had a brainstorm about filling an empty center ice role. So, now Cousin Brucie is telling us that he's "hopeful" that David Krejci will change his mind and, in fact, return to the B's later this season. "David didn't close the door on returning," Cassidy insists. 

Well, if that isn't the acme of wishful thinking, I don't know what is. Maybe -- just maybe -- Krejci has gone home to Sternberk in the Czech Republic because he's had enough of Cassidy's conception of coaching. Not impossible; right? Then again, who needs a Krejci when Cousin Brucie has Nick (Of-Time) Foligno on his roster. Hey, maybe the coach is right; and Dauntless David will get nostalgic for Causeway Street and return to Beantown. (A man can dream, can't he?)


THE JIVE: The fact that Henrik Lundqvist's comeback hopes were dashed last season because of medical issues, does not mean that Hank has given up on playing NHL goal again. In a surprise -- and typically neat --move, The King tweeted a pix of his goalie pads and a cryptic note: "Back at it, see what happens?"

To decipher that I'll need Albert Mitchell, The Answer Man right now and he's not answering. Thus, my question to Hammerin' Hank is this; Are you thinking Capitals? Or, more important, what are the medical updates that would encourage you to continue? As we all know, Henrik's mere presence brightens any rink or scene. If not hockey, tv is for The Man.

Of course, the most natural thing to do would be for the Rangers to deal Alex Georgiev thereby making room for The King to regain his throne as back up for one more year. (Hey, you never know!)


THE JIVE: As the number one Canucks center Elias Pettersson has a lot to do about where Vancouver finishes in any season. Looking backward to the past campaign, the B.C. Boys had their troubles and injury-riddled Pettersson suffered a punko year. 

Back home in Sundsvall, Sweden, The Dear Boy told a local newsman something that shook up British Columbia, continents and an ocean away: 

"I want to be back and also want to play for a team that wants to win."

Now, if you read that cross-eyed you might get the idea that Eagle-eyed Elias wants out of a Canucks jersey; but that would be all wrong. No, Vancouver fans; not to worry.

All Pettersson wants is a new contract hammered out with the high command and get it all over with. Coincidentally, Elias' agent, Pat Brisson, also is handling teammate Quinn Hughes negotiations. (Do you call that a conflict of dis-interest; or what? I dunno.) Meanwhile g.m. Jim Benning has been fortifying the team with enough new additions to assure Pettersson and Hughes that management is determined to win in 2021-22.

(But only if Quinn and Elias play to their potential. Also, I just saw a video of Quinn surfing. Wow! That lad is a multi-ace.)


THE JIVE: Author Matthew Blittner's fourth hockey book is a gem.

It's called “Voices of The NHL: A Collection of Bios & Stories from Broadcasters across the National Hockey League" and, well, the stories tell the story.

Here are some:

1) Calgary's Rick Ball has been calling Flames games on TV since the 2014-15 season and just like many players, he worked his way up to the NHL by going through the minor leagues. That involved taking long bus rides from place to place. But one cold, snowy night, the bus very nearly left him to freeze in the middle of nowhere.

The team bus had stopped at a Bobs Big Boy in Spokane for burgers and while the players went to grab some patties, Ball went outside to call the radio station with that night's game result. Only, as Ball was calling in, the bus -- with the players back on board -- started to pull away. Ball, in a panic, started to chase after the bus while thigh deep in snow and without his wallet, money or jacket (which were all on the bus). 

Eventually, Ball caught up to the bus thanks to a player who saw him running and when he got on board, he realized he never turned off his phone, so his whole swear-filled run was captured by the radio station.

2) Detroit's Ken Daniels was able to experience something any hockey fan would give an arm for. He accompanied Scotty Bowman to the ESPN Zone for dinner in Colorado and had quite the laugh at Bowman's expense. 

It was the height of the NCAA March Madness tournament and all Bowman wanted to do was watch the St. Louis Blues game, because that's who the Red Wings were playing next. Instead, every TV in the place was tuned into March Madness and when Bowman caught sight of the score of one tournament game, he went on an expletive-filled rant because the tally was 5-2; not realizing that was a normal score for the beginning of a basketball game.

3) Nashville's Pete Weber has been doing games for the team since its inception, but there was one in particular that rendered him incapable of uttering a coherent word.

While working a Predators-Sharks game in San Jose, Weber was paired with Terry Crisp on the team's simulcast and when defenseman Cale Hulse kicked the puck out of the zone, Crisp misspoke and said something not suitable for air or print. Weber, as well as their Stage Manager and Radio Engineer, were all left bent over, hysterical laughing. Mind you, the game was still going on and the camera/microphone never stopped rolling. 

4) Philadelphia's Jason Myrtetus is an outstanding pre-game/intermission/post-game host. He also happens to be responsible for a previously unsolved mystery at Fenway Park. You see, the Flyers and Bruins were scheduled to play in the 2010 Winter Classic at the home of the Boston Red Sox. So, the day before, there was a practice and some media availability. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Well, after the mundane events ended, Myrtetus and some others went wandering around the hallowed halls of Fenway, only to find their way into a fully loaded suite. And by fully loaded, we mean a suite filled with alcohol. Without incriminating himself or his cohorts too much, let's just say that by the time they left, the suite was no longer fully loaded. Where did all the booze go? 

The Red Sox didn't know, but perhaps the readers of "Voices of The NHL" can now give them the answer.