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BLOG: Greatest NHL Waiver Deal Ever?

Harvey Wittenberg looks back at the anniversary of the waiver deal that brought a legend to Chicago

by Harvey Wittenberg / Blackhawks.com

There's no doubt that June 15, 1969 marks the greatest waiver deal ever in Blackhawks history and arguably the biggest in NHL history! On that day, Chicago GM Tommy Ivan picked up rookie goalie Tony Esposito on waivers from the defending Stanley Cup Champion Montreal for $25,000.

There were numerous ramifications and coincidences that reverberated from that deal. Refreshing the many memories from that June 15 date, Montreal had won its second straight Cup and its fourth in five seasons while the Hawks missed the playoffs despite having a winning record while finishing last in their division.

Montreal GM Sam Pollack and Coach Claude Ruel decided to keep veteran goalies Rogie Vachon and Gump Worsley even though the rookie Esposito performed well in 13 games for Canadiens the previous season.

Going into the 1969-70 campaign, Hawk coach Billy Reay found himself with six rookies in his lineup, but always preferred to go with veteran players. The season started off like a disaster with veteran netminder Denis DeJordy. Chicago had lost its first five games before managing a tie with the Rangers. Reay decided to give Tony Esposito his first Blackhawks start at Montreal on October 25 and the rookie blanked the champions and his former team in the Forum 5-0.

Alternating Tony with DeJordy, the rookie blanked Toronto 9-0 for his 2nd shutout two weeks later.

Seeking revenge on November 16th at the Stadium, Tony "O" again blanked the Canadiens 1-0. Tony went on to register a modern-day 15 shutouts, to win the Calder Trophy for top rookie, Vezina Trophy for best goalie, first team All Star and finished second in MVP voting.

Tony was in goal when the Hawks knocked the Canadiens out of the playoffs in the final game of the regular season 10-2. With that win, the Hawks finished in first place one point ahead of Boston, which marked the first time in NHL history that a team went from last place in one season to first place the next.

Video: One More Shift: Esposito Brothers

Tony holds the Blackhawks records for most wins (413) and shutouts (74) and was named to the NHL Hall of Fame in addition to having his jersey (#35) retired and hanging in the rafters at the United Center. Tony and his brother Phill were honored at the UC on April 3rd with One More Shift. Tony ranks 11th on the all-time NHL shutout list with 76.

Pretty good deal for the $25,000 waiver price on June 15, 1969.  

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