Robert Earle (Bob) Essensa was drafted 69th overall in the 1983 Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets knew he was a long term project. He had just completed playing hockey at Henry Carr High School in Toronto (although scholastically he attended Vincent Massey High School) and was about to enroll at Michigan State University for the 1983 season. The Jets were patient with their selection, knowing he’d be 4 years away from turning pro, but they knew he was with one of the top hockey programs in the United States.
The Jets’ patience paid off. He was a CCHA all star with a career record of an impressive 62-13-2 career record and set several school records, though they have since been bettered.
Essensa made his NHL debut in 1988-89 at the age of 23. He went 6-8-3 in 20 games, but in 1989-90, that record improved to 18-9-5 with a 3.15 goals-against average, while being named the NHL All-Rookie goaltender. In 1990-91, Essensa posted four shutouts and won the Jets’ Molson Cup award, given to the player with the most points accumulated through three-star selections at the conclusion of each game.
In 1991-92, Essensa registered a league best five shutouts and was the second runner up for the Vezina and Jennings trophies, and posted a career-high 33 wins in 1992-93. He was an extremely popular player in Winnipeg, and well decorated too. He set franchise records for most career games played by a goalie, most minutes, most career wins, most wins in one season, most consecutive wins and most assists by a goalie in one season.
In 1993-94 Essensa was traded to the Detroit the Red Wings for Tim Cheveldae and Dallas Drake. Though he was excited to return to the city where he attended university, he never got the playing time he had hoped for in the Motor City and played most of the next two seasons in the minors.
Essensa resurfaced in the NHL in 1996 as a backup goalie with the Edmonton Oilers. Though he never really was given a shot to re-prove himself as a number one goalie, he received great feedback for his positive attitude and play as a back up netminder, thus lengthening his career. He also was quite approachable when it came to mentoring young goalies.
In 1999-2000, Essensa rejoined the Phoenix Coyotes, the old Winnipeg Jets team, and posted a 13-10-3 record. On July 26, 2000, Essensa signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks and split goaltending duties first with Felix Potvin and then Dan Cloutier. He went 18-12 with a 2.68 GAA and helped the Canucks make the playoffs for the first time in five years. In the playoffs, he started two of the Canucks four games.
Although Vancouver fans loved to chant “Bob E, Bob E,” the popular goalie was not re-signed. In September 2001, Essensa signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Sabres where he served as backup and mentor to Martin Biron.
He would retire at the end of the season, and would move on to become a goalie coach. He retired 173-176-47 record with 18 shutouts in 447 NHL games.
See the article here at Greatest Hockey Legends: Bob Essensa
Category: Jets Biographies