Thunder and Lightning: A No-B.S. Hockey Memoir

Overview

At a party marking the end of his third season with the Blackhawks, Phil Esposito told coach Billy Reay and GM Tommy Ivan that they had a great team, maybe even a dynasty, but that the two of them would screw it up.

It was a classic Espo moment (and may have had something to do with his being traded to the Bruins): the big centre from the Soo who became one of hockey's all-time leading scorers, has never been reluctant to speak his mind. In ...
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Overview

At a party marking the end of his third season with the Blackhawks, Phil Esposito told coach Billy Reay and GM Tommy Ivan that they had a great team, maybe even a dynasty, but that the two of them would screw it up.

It was a classic Espo moment (and may have had something to do with his being traded to the Bruins): the big centre from the Soo who became one of hockey's all-time leading scorers, has never been reluctant to speak his mind. In this rollicking hockey memoir, he reveals what it was like to play with other Hall of Famers like Howe and Hull and Orr. He recalls his acrimonious encounters with Allan Eagleson, the incredible intensity of the 1972 Canada-Russia series, the fabulous ride with the great Bruins teams of the early 1970s, and the tough years that followed with the New York Rangers.

From being a player, Esposito went on to be a commentator, a coach, a general manager, and then founder and part-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He saw it all: the booze, the drugs, the women, the wheeling and dealing, the good times and the camaraderie, the bad times and the back-stabbing. In telling what it was really like, Esposito takes readers into the boardrooms, back rooms - and even the bedrooms - of the men who make their lives in the NHL.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780771030857
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
  • Publication date: 9/23/2003
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.29 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Phil Esposito played with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Boston Bruins, and the New York Rangers. After his retirement as a player, he did colour commentary for Rangers games and then became the Rangers’ general manager. He was a founder and a part owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He lives in Florida.

Peter Golenbock has written some of sports’ most important books, including Dynasty: The New York Yankees 1949-64, The Bronx Zoo, which he wrote in 1979 with New York Yankee pitcher Sparky Lyle; BUMS: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Personal Fouls, a look at corruption in college basketball; American Zoom, a history of NASCAR; and Wild, High and Tight, his biography of Yankee manager Billy Martin. Peter Golenbock lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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Table of Contents

Preface by Peter Golenbock: vii

Introduction: 1

Chapter 1
I was born in Sault Ste. Marie: 7

Chapter 2
When I was a boy: 14

Chapter 3
In 1960 I tried out: 21

Chapter 4
At the end of the 1961-62 season: 28

Chapter 5
Linda and I got married: 35

Chapter 6
The Blackhawks had a great team: 45

Chapter 7
The next day I got a call: 53

Chapter 8
Harry Sinden: 64

Chapter 9
Those Bruins teams: 73

Chapter 10
After the hockey season: 83

Chapter 11
One of the worst things: 91

Chapter 12
In July 1972: 98

Chapter 13
The Russians: 108

Chapter 14
Linda had come to Russia: 120

Chapter 15
When the 1972-73 season began: 122

Chapter 16
I was traded: 129

Chapter 17
I played in the Canada Cup: 144

Chapter 18
It became too difficult: 153

Chapter 19
Wayne Gretzky: 157

Chapter 20
After my retirement: 164

Chapter 21
When I took over: 175

Chapter 22
In the middle of the 1986-87 season: 186

Chapter 23
The tension and the pressure: 198

Chapter 24
The morning after I was fired: 206

Chapter 25
During the summer of 1990: 216

Chapter 26
I went to Jamaica: 223

Chapter 27
The Japanese: 231

Chapter 28
We had a lot to do: 239

Chapter 29
The tension between Crispy and me: 245

Chapter 30
During the 1993-94 season: 254

Chapter 31
At the end of June 1994: 259

Chapter 32
In early August 1997: 271

Chapter 33
My guess was: 277

Index: 284
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First Chapter

After I suffered a severe knee injury during the first playoffgame against the Rangers in 1972-73, I was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I had medial-collateral ligament damage. The next morning I was operated on. The surgeons transplanted ligaments from my elbow.

I remember coming out of the operation looking at the TV to learn we had lost the series to the Rangers and were eliminated.

The next day at about eleven in the morning Bobby Orr and a couple other of my Boston Bruin teammates came to see me. They said they were going to come back that night and take me to a party. I was game.

My wife at the time, Donna, said to me, "How are you going to do that? You can't walk."

I said, "Don't worry. These guys just had a few drinks. They aren't going to do anything."

But I was very wrong about that.

That night, around seven-thirty, the door to my room flew open, and there in a hospital gown, mask, and cap stood Bobby Orr. With him were Wayne Cashman, Kenny Hodge, Dallas Smith, Freddie O'Donnell and our trainer, Johnny "Frosty" Forristall.

Bobby said, "Wappo, we're taking you to a party."

"Whaaaaaat?" I said. "How are you going to do that?"

He said, "Don't worry about it. We're taking you."

I was in a full cast from my groin to my toes. My leg was in traction, up in the air in a sling. I was wearing only a hospital johnny and a sheet.

"Are you crazy?" I said. "What are you guys doing?"

Donna kept repeating, "What are you guys doing?"

They said, "Relax."

"Hon, it's okay," I said.

You might ask how they planned to get me out of there. Bobby had a friend whowas a private detective. His job was to create a diversion. He went to the nurses' station and flashed a badge and said, "Where is the guy who got shot?"

The nurse said, "Nobody on this floor got shot."

He said, "Somebody got shot. And I want to see him." So while the boys came for me she was preoccupied making phone calls trying to find out if someone on the floor had been shot.

They wheeled the bed, levers, ropes, and all, into the hallway. There was an elevator across from my room, and when it opened, they pushed me in. They bribed the elevator operator, who was looking at us wide-eyed, to take us down to the basement.

When the elevator doors opened, they pushed my bed into the corridor. They pulled the sheet up over my head. Only my leg was visible. Donna was running beside me, and I could hear her saying, "Oh my God. Oh my God. Are you all right, Phil?"

I kept saying, "Yeah, yeah," and Bobby was saying, "Wappo, we got you. Don't worry. No problem." From under the sheet I could hear people in the corridor say, "Hey, that's Bobby Orr."

When we reached the exit, the guys couldn't get the bed through the doors because a metal post ran down the middle, so Dallas Smith, Kenny Hodge, and Freddie O'Donnell began rocking the post, and they ripped it right out of the cement! They wheeled me onto the street and into the cold Boston night.

Off we went toward a club Bobby owned called the Branding Iron, which was about a half a mile from the hospital. It was early April in Boston, and I was freezing my balls off. As they wheeled me down the middle of Cambridge Street, I could hear horns beeping. Donna was trying to keep me covered with a blanket as we flew along.

Bobby kept asking, "Are you all right, Wappo?" I said, "Yeah, are we there yet?" Bobby said to me, "Wappo, put your left hand out. We're making a turn." Like an idiot I put my hand out. I said to myself, What am I doing?

By the time we got to the club, one of the wheels of the bed had broken, so the guys had to carry the bed inside and up twenty stairs to the party. I could see the veins sticking out of their necks, because the bed was heavy and I was not a light guy. But they got me up there and set me down in the middle of the bar.

Bobby yelled out, "Okay, the party can start now!"

They put bricks under the broken wheel, Bobby gave me a beer, one of the other guys gave me another beer, and Eddie Johnston grabbed a stinky provolone cheese and put it right between my legs. Guys would come over, cut off a slice of the cheese and eat it.

Meanwhile, the TV was on in the bar, and there was a news flash that said, "Phil Esposito has been kidnapped from Mass General Hospital."

Bobby said, "I guess I better call the doctor."

I said, "Yeah, Bobby, you better."

So he called Dr. Carter Rowe, the man who had operated on me, and told him I was okay.

Dr. Rowe said, "Listen, Phil has to get back. He just had a very serious knee operation, and if he falls he may never walk again, let alone play. We'll send a ambulance."

Bobby said, "No, we took him. We'll bring him back." And Bobby and the guys carried that bed all the way back to the hospital.

They got me back to my room and, to make a long story shorter, it cost me over $3,800 for a new bed and a new entrance door.

A little while later Bobby said, "Did you pay the bill?"

I said, "Yeah, I paid it."

He said, "What a great party, huh?"

I said, "You asshole."

And he left, laughing.
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