May 26, 2009

Memories of Peter Zezel

Peter Zezel has died from his rare blood disorder.

First and foremost I will always remember Peter Zezel for his faceoff expertise and sound defensive game, his reliable play every night and his tough though clean approach to the game. No wonder why he was one of Mike Keenan's favourite players.

I will also remember Peter Zezel as the heartthrob in Philadelphia. Girls swooned after him. His cool hair even landed him a small role in the Hollywood hockey movie Youngblood. He certainly would not look out of place beside Rob Lowe or Patrick Swayze.

Most will remember Zezel as a Flyer or a Maple Leaf, where he spent the bulk of the best years of his career. Because he was such a valuable player even when he was no longer able to contribute offensively, he bounced around the league a lot in later years, with two stops in St. Louis as well as in Washington, Dallas, New Jersey and Vancouver.

But I also remember Zezel as a great person. I had the chance to watch Zezel closely in his final season and a half with the Vancouver. I remember seeing glimpses of the Zezel I watched in Philly and Toronto, but clearly something was weighing on his mind. That was confirmed late in the season when he left on a personal leave. It turned out he desperately wanted to be with his family after his two year old niece had died of leukemia.

Zezel never came back, opting to be with his family. He played senior hockey in Ontario and coached youth hockey and started up a hockey school in Toronto. Rumor had it he would return to the NHL only if he could play for the Leafs. But he did not want to be away from his family any longer.

Maybe something inside of Zezel told him he had better maximize his time with his beloved family. In 2001 Zezel himself fell ill, being diagnosed with the rare and incurable haemolytic anemia blood disorder that destroys red blood cells faster than the body can replace them.

He has been battling this energy zapping disease ever since, taking chemotherapy and even having his spleen removed. All the while he tried his best to keep up his sports camps for kids, encompassing hockey as well as soccer and golf. But last week his organs began to fail and he lapsed into a coma.

On Tuesday he was taken off life support. He was just 44 years old. He died single and with no kids of his own, yet he made a huge impact on the lives of so many kids.

7 comments:

B. Wags said...

R.I.P. He will be sadly missed.

Anonymous said...

Peter was not alone, he had a long time fiance who love him dearly. Her heart is broken over the loss of Peter. Peter was a loving, generous & funny man who will be greatly missed by many. Donating his organs proves how selfless he was.

Kent said...

I had the privledge of Peter playing with our Adult Men,s competitive hockey team in the off-season of 93 when the leafs made a run for the cup. He was a great human-being and his humility was there at every game,considering he was playing with a bunch of middle-aged hockey guys. He said he played with us to stay in shape for the next season, it was just a summer league. Peter did some wonderful gestures to the young fans that came out to watch him play with us.Peter was never to tired after our late games to sign autographs or take time to show a genuine interest in the young guns who wanted a moment of his time to just hang out with Pete. The whole hockey community loves you Peter and have become better human beings because of you.God rest your soul and we will see you one day again friend. Kent Holm

Anonymous said...

Peter was an outstanding person, not just in hockey but in life. He had a long-time girlfriend of 14 years and treated her children as his own. God bless you Peter, you will be sorely missed.

Anonymous said...

Alida was an on and off person in his life and his family was none to fond of her. I have personally known Peter and no he wasnt alone, he had many "close" friends up until the minute he passed . We spoke daily and I truly enjoyed his visits to Florida and spending summers in Toronto with him, I will miss my "friend" of 16 years, RIP.. I LOVE YOU

Anonymous said...

I don't know who you are but Peter had many friends who thought they were closer to him than they actually were, stand in line. As far as Alida is concerned, his actual close friends, people in his daily personal life will tell you that she was not off and on and as a matter of fact, Peter chased her for 15 years, actually buying his house down the street from her just to be close to her. They were engaged in France 3 years ago and it was she, who was with him at the end, along with his sister, who by the way loves her like a sister. He told her and only her that he loved her, his last words before he fell asleep forever. Whatever you may beleive, she was the love of his life as he told his close friends and you obviously were just another one of his so called close friends who actually did not know or belong in his real circle of close friends, how insulting of you to make such comments, you really did not even know him!

Anonymous said...

I was also a close friend of Peter's. He didn't do such a good job as boyfriend and needed lots of female attention at times, but he was a neat guy. He liked having a lot of friends, mostly women for some reason. As a guy, it was fun to hear his stories, he had many because of his life as a hockey player, and that attracted a lot of groupie-like friends, as much as he didn't really like it, he also couldn 't pull away from it when his career ended. As his friend, I saw a man deeply in love. They had many rough times, but he could not live without her, he would win her back every time with his charm. He talked to me about getting married a couple of months before he died, its too bad because he really wanted a normal, stable, loving life with Alida and I am sure it would have eventually happened. They were in Florida together in March looking to buy a condo together and almost bought one, too bad, he had a lot to look forward to. Any by the way, Alida is godmother to one of Peter's sister's children, I guess they like her a "little bit".

Miss you buddy, love you Pete, R.I.P.