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Retired hockey pro, Phil Esposito, played centre for the Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers for 18 seasons. He is an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and is considered to be one of the greatest to have ever played in the NHL.
Phil Esposito served as General Manager and coach of the Rangers for three years in the mid 1980s, during which he earned the nickname "Trader Phil" for the numerous transactions he made. During his tenure as GM, he made more trades than the Vancouver Canucks had made in the entire 1980s. While serving as GM, two of his most famous trades included the trade for the legendary Marcel Dionne and one which he sent a first round pick to the Quebec Nordiques as compensation for signing Michel Bergeron to be the Rangers' coach.
Esposito moved on to found the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning but faced competition from the Compuware Group who wanted to place a team in nearby St. Petersburg. It was proposed to Esposito that he merge his bid with the Compuware Group to which he refused. His reputation and force of personality was widely credited with winning the expansion bid for Tampa Bay -- in 1992, serving as the team's president and general manager until 1998. Compuware eventually purchased the Hartford Whalers.
In the Lightning's inaugural season, Esposito made hockey history by signing Manon Rheaume, making her the first woman to sign with an NHL team. He later admitted in his autobiography that signing Rheaume was only a publicity stunt for the new franchise and that she had no business being in the NHL. He remains the teamís radio color commentator, and also co-hosts a daily call-in show on XM Satellite Radio's Home Ice channel. He has appeared in the last two seasons on the FX network show Rescue Me, a show with strong hockey elements, in a recurring role as a hockey-loving fire chief.
Phil Esposito was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984. In December 1987, his #7 jersey was retired by the Boston Bruins in an emotional ceremony where the then-current wearer, superstar defenseman Ray Bourque, pulled off his #7 jersey to reveal his new number, 77--dramatically "surrendering" his old number in Esposito's favor. Esposito was "visibly moved" when Bourque showed the Boston Garden crowd his new number, which he used for the rest of his career. Esposito was also on hand in Boston to hand Bourque his retired number after the latter retired.