Phil Esposito: There will be no Super Series 2!


Today marks the 65th anniversary of one of the most famous players in world hockey, the fifth sniper in NHL history, and the spearhead of Canadians in the 72 Super Series.

Your correspondent has been in contact with Esposito for three years already, Phil has given interviews to Sovetsky Sport on several occasions. How was it not to call the birthday man before the holiday? Moreover, the reason for the conversation is the most weighty – the president of the FHR and participant of the Super Series-72 Vladislav Tretyak, 35 years later, plans to hold eight matches between the national teams of Russia and Canada. How does Esposito feel about this initiative?


– Phil, happy birthday! How will you celebrate the anniversary?

– Thanks for the compliments! Believe it or not, I’ll meet him at work. My birthdays stopped at around 60. After this anniversary, I am somehow cool about my holidays. In the afternoon I will have a radio show, and in the evening I will comment on the match between Tampa and Florida. After that, my wife and I will go to our country house on the ocean shore. Just take a break from the hustle and bustle.

– Remember your most memorable birthday.

– Most often we had a match on February 20. So, on this day in 1969, I scored my 50th goal of the season, and against my brother Tony Esposito, who played in Chicago. Interestingly, two years later I repeated this achievement, and again the 50th puck flew into Tony’s goal. Just don’t think that it was a conspiracy of relatives. It’s just that my brother was out of luck.

– What are you doing now?

– I work for XM-Radio 204, where I host a sports show and comment on all of Tampa’s home games. In general, I am in business and do what I really like.

– What are the successes of your grandchildren – the children of Russian hockey player Alexander Selivanov?

– Kerry and Alexander still live in Germany. My youngest eight-year-old grandson Niko just finished playing in a hockey tournament – he performed well, made his grandfather happy. And the eldest, 12-year-old Dylan, plays hockey in his age group. He is a big boy, he has good inclinations. A guy can grow to the NHL if he is passionate about working.


– Vladislav Tretyak plans to revive the super series between Canadian and Russian hockey players. How do you feel about this project?

“I don’t believe this will happen. And I do not share the point of view of Tretyak. Super Series-2? Sorry, but this is not relevant now. The best Russian hockey players play here in America in the NHL. We see them anyway.

By the way, in 1972 our team was not supposed to be called the Canadian team. It’s more like the NHL team. Both Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe of the World Hockey Association (WHA) were supposed to play on the real Canadian team. But they were not invited. The same thing happened in 1974, when the USSR national team fought with the VKhA national team, but the NHL team remained on the sidelines.

– How do you look at the club matches between Russia and the NHL? Is there any perspective in this? For example, IIHF President Rene Fasel wants the European champion (now Ak Bars) to fight the current Stanley Cup winner.

– Maybe it’s interesting to someone. But again, the best Russian hockey players are already playing for the NHL teams. Tretiak and Fasel want to compete with the Canadians to make money. Unfortunately, today in this world it is finance that comes to the fore.

But one thing I know for sure – no one can repeat Super Series-72. I affirm: nobody! It’s impossible. The circumstances and life are completely different now. Russia is no longer a closed communist state, where hockey was part of politics. Russians no longer have such sports schools where they can train 5-10 players of the level of Semin, Frolov every year.

Everything has changed, and there is no point in speculating on history. Then, in 1972, it was just the right time to compete. But in the future, if an international championship is held, then between Europe and the NHL, where the best hockey players from Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland and even Belarus will play for the Old World.

– When was the last time you played against the USSR national team?

– It was in 1977 at the World Championships. The Rangers missed the Stanley Cup playoffs and I went to play in Vienna. We had an average NHL team, but we beat both the Swedes and the Czechs. However, the USSR national team simply destroyed us – 8: 1! That match was eerily similar to the first game of the Super Series-72, which ended in our fiasco – 3: 7. There, in Vienna, we picked up a bunch of deletions. And I was very upset for our goalkeeper – my brother Tony. He did the best he could. This is how my international career ended ingloriously.

– The World Championship will take place in Moscow in two months. Are you coming to the tournament?

– No, it’s too late. If the organizers wanted me to come, they had to invite me in advance. I need to change my schedule. But this is not possible now.


“Your jersey is hanging under the arches of the Boston Garden hockey arena. Tell us about this event …

– On January 17, 1985, there was a ceremony for raising my number 7, which Boston decided to immortalize. I remember that day very well. At that time, my number was an excellent defender Ray Burke. He was the team leader, and coach Harry Sinden decided to leave the seven behind him. I didn’t mind.

But, when the solemn ceremony began, Burk unexpectedly drove up to me, took off his sweater and stayed in another one with number 77. He handed me a seven. I was very moved and for the first time in my life I could not find the right words. I will always be grateful to Ray for his actions. Then Wayne Cashman and Kenny Hodge lifted my sweater under the arches of Boston Garden.

– Wayne Cashman? A friend of yours who played with you in the same flight at Boston?

– Yes, Cashman named Cash. I recall with pleasure the golden years I spent at Boston. We were young and did unthinkable things. I remember one time when Wayne was stopped by the police for driving with excess alcohol in his blood, he was given the opportunity to make one phone call. And what do you think? Cash dialed a Chinese restaurant and ordered dinner!

The police knew me and called me from the car. I replied that I would now come to the station and pick up my friend. When I got there, I saw an impressive scene – Wayne was sitting between the cops and they were eating Chinese fast food together. I had to join them. So we had dinner at the police.

– Which NHL hockey player was your idol?

– I really respected Gordie Howe. At the very beginning of my professional career, in 1962, I played at St. Louis, from where I was called up to the main team of Chicago. The first match I played against Montreal, and the second against Detroit, for which Howe played. I was in the squad, but I was sitting on the bench. Suddenly the coach shouted that Esposito was in the top three with Bobby Hull and Fleming. When I jumped out onto the court, everyone was preparing for a throw-in. I took up a position opposite Gordy. Bobby Hull told me to keep it.

But as soon as the referee’s whistle sounded, Gordy drove his elbow into my face with full swing! Yes, it was so dashing that my mouth started bleeding. I hit him back with a club. We were removed. At that time, there was only one penalty box, with a policeman sitting between the players. I turned to Howe, wiping off the blood with a towel, and shouted: “And you were still my idol, son of a bitch!” Gordy turned to me and asked, “What did you say?” I looked at him: “Nothing, absolutely nothing, Mr. Howe.”

The next year we met at a banquet, and Howe told me that this is how he checks all newcomers. Since I fought back, he decided not to touch me again.


– You were the general manager of two NHL teams – Rangers and Tampa. Tell us about the most interesting exchange you’ve made.

– I’ll tell you about the exchange that I failed to do. While working for the Rangers, I was actively building a team, looking for new players. In 1988, Edmonton general manager Glen Suther approached me during a management meeting in Palm Beach and asked, “Would you like to have Wayne Gretzky on your team?”

I knew that Pocklington, the owner of the Oil Workers, had big financial problems, and immediately answered: “Who will refuse Gretzky? What do you want for him? ” “You can get it for $ 15 million.”

We quickly agreed that I would give Kisio, Vanbisbrook, Sandstrom, a second round draft and $ 15 million for Gretzky. I immediately called Rangers’ owners Diller and Evans and said that I had accomplished a feat: we’ll get Gretzky!

I have remembered Dick Evans’ answer for the rest of my life: “Why do we need Gretzky? Madison Square Garden stadium is already full! ” All my arguments that we will win the Stanley Cup with Gretzky crashed against the wall of misunderstanding. The owners answered that they are not going to spend 15 million “green” now.

A few days later, Edmonton traded Gretzky for Los Angeles. Californian owner Bruce McNeill found the required money and made the deal of the century.

– What can you say about the recently held All Stars match?

– I don’t watch such games. I think that hockey is not real in them. I’m not interested in this.

– What do you like about the modern NHL?

– First of all, speed. In the second – performing skills. Forwards such as Malkin, Crosby, Lecavalier, Richards, Ovechkin, Semin are extraordinarily talented. It’s so good to see that they can play without those unnecessary grips, delays, club strikes, as it was in my time. It is extremely difficult to break through to the goal when two defenders are hanging on your shoulders, who beat you on the hands. Nowadays, watching hockey is much more interesting.

– Do you think the NHL has no flaws?

– I don’t like only one thing – how the judges work. There must be constancy, an unambiguous interpretation of the rules. Now in the league, the same actions on the court are evaluated differently. The NHL is striving to rectify the situation, but, in my opinion, so far it has failed.

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