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Lightning Round: Tony Esposito, original member of the Lightning front office, passes away at the age of 78

Without Tony and Phil, there would be no hockey in Tampa.

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“The only person I ever brought with me was my brother. And if you can’t trust your brother, who can you trust? Plus he had the experience and knew the minor leagues.”

That’s what Phil Esposito had to say about his decision to work with his brother in building the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise. On Tuesday Tony Esposito, the hall of fame goaltender, passed away after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.

Tony “O” was right beside his brother from the beginning of the organization, going to bars and town halls to promote the team and garner support for hockey in Tampa. Once they were awarded the franchise, he officially joined the organization as the director of player development and head of minor league operations. Esposito helped build a scouting team that drafted the likes of Roman Hamrlik, Chris Gratton, Daymond Langkow, Vincent Lecavalier, and Brad Richards. He was also instrumental in bringing Daren Puppa to the Bolts as well.

While Phil was the frontman of the organization, Tony was the more detailed oriented of the two, working behind the scenes to build the team. Or, as he put it in an interview with

“I was a detail guy,” Tony says, “but we had to have promotion. We realized this; we had to split it up somehow so Phil could sell tickets and I could run the team. You couldn’t do both jobs.”

After building the team into a playoff contender in the 1995-96 season, injuries and payroll concerns kept the Esposito’s from continuing the success. Like his brother Phil, Tony was relieved of his duties as assistant general manager just two games into the 1988-99 season when owner Art Williams sacked the brothers and granted general manager duties to head coach Jaques Demers.

Lightning/NHL News

The Crunch added to their blueline depth by signing 25-year-old defenseman Ryan Jones to an AHL contract. Jones was drafted by the Penguins in the fourth round of the 2016 draft and has appeared in 29 AHL games, all with the Rochester Americans. [Syracuse Crunch]

The Athletic has dropped their third annual “best contracts in the NHL” post. Nikita Kucherov hit the honorable mention category, but no other Lightning member made the list (which was very forward heavy). That’s ok. [The Athletic - subscription required]

The Toronto Marlies announced that they will not be hiring their new goaltending coach after all. [Marlies Twitter]

The NHL released their schedule a couple of weeks ago and it included a break for the Olympics. As of right now there has been no agreement to send the players and if talks stall out, the league will reswizzle the schedule to eliminate that break. So that would mean rescheduling games that people have already bought tickets for. Awesome. This league is the best. [ESPN]