Phil Esposito was just getting started when, after playing in their system, he made the Blackhawks roster in 1963. For a variety of reasons, however, he never quite endeared himself to management. For one, Esposito's initial contract offer was below what he earned with their St. Louis Braves farm club.
"Then there was my weight," Esposito recalled the other day. "They thought I was too heavy. Billy kept on me to get down to 190 pounds. I was more than that. He fined me 10 bucks for every pound I was over 190."
Esposito scored 23 goals in his first full season, was edged out for the 1965 Calder Trophy by goalie Roger Crozier of the Detroit Red Wings, and continued onward. At one point, Esposito centered for Hull and Chico Maki.
"He had all the tools, but they just didn't like him here," Hull recalled. "He was just a fun-loving kid. Once, Billy put him out late in a game. We trailed by maybe four goals. Phil turned to Billy and said, 'Billy, you want me to tie it or win it?'"
After Esposito failed to register a point in a 1967 playoff series against Toronto, he was gone. General Manager Tommy Ivan traded Esposito, Fred Stanfield and Ken Hodge to Boston, where they meshed with a young Orr to form a championship team. In 1969, brother Tony was claimed by Chicago from the Montreal Canadiens for $25,000. He evolved into a Hall of Fame goalie and got along famously with Ivan and Reay.
"What can I say?" Phil Esposito concluded. "I was determined to prove people wrong, and in Boston, the fat guy at 215 pounds did. Thing is, as a kid in Chicago, I'd go to the sauna to lose weight for Billy. But Moose Vasko is there with a case of beer. I was heavier when I left than when I went in. But it all worked out for Tony and me, didn't it?"
Here's the full story, including more on Bobby Orr's 26 games in Chicago
I take pride in offering my work for free. If you like my work, and you think it's worth buying me a cup of coffee, donate a buck. I'm going to keep doing my work for free because I love doing this, but I'd greatly appreciate your support!