KANATA, ON – His family name is entrenched in Canadian hockey lore, and he has an Uncle Phil and an Uncle Tony to boot.
But Angelo Esposito is making a name for himself as a member of Canada's National Junior Team in its drive for five straight gold medals at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Esposito is from Montreal and is not related to Phil and Tony Esposito, Hockey Hall of Fame brothers who hail from Sault Ste. Marie, ON.
Angelo Esposito is the story of a hockey player not giving up his dream. His is a story of a scoring sensation in his mid-teens who redefined his game to chase his goal of representing Canada on the world stage.
The 2009 World Juniors is the fourth time that Esposito found himself in the mix for the Canadian team, and this year marks the first time he has made the cut.
"It would have been easy for that young man to lay down and not try and a lot of people wanted him to do that," said head coach Pat Quinn. "For some strange reason, Canadians want to hammer the peg down rather than cheer when he gets back up.
"When he came in here, I do not think we gave him any leeway just because we liked the story. He earned it and he is changing his game. He was an offensive element in a game and that offensive element started to dry up and he thought he had better be a better player in different ways and he has gone about trying to do it."
Esposito realized a few years ago that he had to become a more complete player if he wanted to wear Canada's colors on the world stage. Knowing that this was his last chance to play in the pressure-packed World Juniors, he set his sights last summer on making the team.
He worked on his fitness, honing the things he need to work on to show he can he as good on defence as he is on offence. He got his strength up and worked on mental part of the game.
"I came in here with the mindset I had to compete," said Esposito, who is actually trilingual, speaking French, English and Italian. "Take the body, be first on the puck and move my feet. I didn't worry much about scoring and tried to be the best player I can be away from the puck.”
He says the transformation from being a 16-year-old scoring machine to being a more rounded player at 19 was simply "part of growing up."
"You always think about scoring and skill and skill and what you realize is there is a lot more to it and it is hard work more than anything else,'' he says.
Esposito added to his memories when he scored a goal in Canada's 8-1 win over Czech Republic. His parents and brother and sister were in the stands and as hard as he tried to find them after he netted his goal, he could not find them in a sea of fans dressed in red and white.
"You always think about people who support you all the time and scoring for Team Canada with all your friends and family there was special," he said. "But honestly, I was not looking for that first goal. My goal is to win the gold medal right now and that is just what I want."