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In 1911, the United States Supreme Court broke up The Standard Oil Company into 34 separate companies as part of an antitrust lawsuit. Each of these 34 companies were allowed to retain the name of Standard Oil, provided that each of these companies only used the name in their designated geographic region.

One of the 34 companies was called Standard Oil (New Jersey), which chose to call itself Esso, because it was the phonetic spelling for the letters "S.O.", which stood for "Standard Oil".

So Esso was the oil and gas company that was allowed to sell its products in the New Jersey area using the emblems, name, and initials of its former parent, Standard Oil. In 1966, Esso decided that it wanted to market its oil and gas products throughout the United States, but in order to do so they would be required by the previous Supreme Court decision to abandon any use of the Standard Oil trademarks, including the use of its initials in the phonetic "Esso". Thus, a new name was chosen: Exxon. In 1972, the shareholders of Esso approved the name change and the signs at all Esso service stations in the United States were changed to Exxon.

Exxon merged with Mobil in 1999 and is now called ExxonMobil. In 2005, ExxonMobil was the most profitable corporation in the world claiming over $36.1 billion in profit on $371 billion in revenues. This was the largest yearly profit for a single corporation in history.

ExxonMobil still uses the name brand of Esso outside of the United States. For example there is an Esso, U.K., and an Esso Australia Pty Ltd. Outside the U.S. there are many other companies named Esso that are almost all owned by parent ExxonMobil. One exception is Esso in Canada, which is owned by another company that just owns the rights to market gasoline in Canada under that name brand.

Outside of the United States, the Esso brand continues to be used. In Canada, the Imperial Oil company (TSX:IMO) provides Esso-brand products such as gasoline and diesel fuel at over 2,000 service stations. The brand is also used on home heating oil and aviation fuel, as well as service-station convenience stores and the Esso Extra 'points' program.

One of the ways Imperial Oil promotes the Esso brand in Canada is through sponsorship of hockey in various forms. Imperial Oil has been a sponsor of Canadian hockey broadcasting since the 1930s. When General Motors declined in 1936 to renew its 5-year sponsorship rights to radio broadcast of Saturday evening Toronto Maple Leafs home games, Imperial Oil stepped in, creating the Imperial Esso Hockey Broadcast. When the CBC's flagship sports broadcast, Hockey Night in Canada, debuted, Imperial Oil was a co-sponsor along with Molson's brewery.

Imperial has not been a continuous broadcast sponsor, having dropped out for a while in the late seventies (1976-1982), but most Canadian hockey fans have heard some variant on "Brought to you in part by Esso dealers, agents and distributors across Canada" on numerous Saturday nights. Esso is even responsible for the ongoing practice of selecting a hockey game's "three stars", which started as a promotional program for Imperial's "Three Star" gasoline.

Esso is affiliated not only with NHL hockey broadcasts, but also with all six Canadian NHL teams, sponsoring programs and awards nights with each club. There is also considerable sponsorships of junior and kids' hockey, including the 'Esso Medals and Certificates of Achievement' program through Hockey Canada. The feel-good awards include medals for most improved player, most dedicated player, and most sportsmanlike player on each registered1 team.

Imperial Oil also sponsors the 'Esso Theatre' at Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame. Included there is the 'Esso Wall of Champions' which honours recipients of an Esso Medal of Achievement who went on to success in the NHL and Canadian National Women's team. Famous names on the wall include netminders Martin Brodeur, Jose Theodore, and Kim St. Pierre and forwards Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, and Hayley Wickenheiser.

  1. Teams may register at http://www.essomedals.com/

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