Former Leaf favourite Peter Zezel dies
TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO
Peter Zezel, left, goofs around with teammate Wendel Clark, right, and Toronto businessman Ed Mirvish in the early 1990s. Print
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May 26, 2009 08:41 PM
Peter Zezel, one of the most popular Maple Leafs in the early 1990s, died today. He was 44.
A key contributor to Toronto's dramatic playoff runs in 1993 and 1994, Zezel had been battling a blood disorder, haemolytic anaemia, for the last decade.
Through treatments and medication, he lived a vibrant life, staying in his hometown of Toronto once he retired from his 15-year NHL career after the 1998-99 season. He coached AAA hockey in the Greater Toronto Hockey League for the Don Mills Flyers and was preparing for another season behind the bench with the minor-bantam squad.
Zezel also ran combination hockey/soccer/golf camps out of Markham that carried his name.
Haemolytic anemia destroys red blood cells faster than the body can replace them. Last week, Zezel went into hospital for chemotherapy treatments and to have his spleen removed. After the surgery, he complained of severe headaches, which led to further surgery. His organs began to fail, he lapsed into a coma and he was put on, then taken off, life support.
BORIS SPREMO/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO
Peter Zezel, right, arm wrestles with his father, Peter Sr. in Toronto on January 18, 1991. His mother, Valerie, and sister Neda look on. Peter Zezel died May 26, 2009. He was 44.
While Zezel, a gregarious, enthusiastic man, was very involved in the community, he will always be remembered for his contribution to a Leafs team that took Toronto on a joyous ride in the spring of 1993. That team came within one game of the Stanley Cup final when it lost the Western Conference final to Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings in seven games.
Offensively gifted – he set a Philadelphia rookie record for assists in 1984-85 – Zezel embraced the role of checking centre, relentless penalty killer and face off specialist in Toronto. Along with linemates Bill Berg and Mark Osborne, he was a huge part of a team that almost made it to the Stanley Cup final to face the Montreal Canadiens.
Zezel was born in Toronto and played his junior hockey for the now defunct Marlies at Maple Leaf Gardens. While playing for the Leafs from 1991 to 1994, he scored 50 goals and totalled 128 points in 207 games.
Leafs general manager Brian Burke issued a statement Tuesday evening:
"On behalf of the Maple Leafs, I want to convey our deepest sympathies to Peter's family, friends and former teammates. He was the consummate professional and he always carried himself with great class as a human being. Peter will be greatly missed."
Former teammate and Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni board member Mark Osborne said:
"Peter was the ultimate caring friend and teammate. He was so dedicated to his family and friends and he would always freely give of his time and energies to help someone else. He was truly a passionate and loyal friend both on and off the ice. Our hockey family is devastated."
Zezel was also a talented soccer player and in his teen years had to make a very difficult decision about which sport to pursue. Though hockey was his main focus, he did end up playing some exhibition matches for the Toronto Blizzard of the North American Soccer League and he also played briefly for the North York Rockets in the Canadian Soccer League.
Zezel also appeared in the movie Youngblood, which was released in 1986. He was single and had no children.
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Last edited by Moral Hazard on Apr-26-2011 at 07:48