Steve Ludzik Believes Hockey Led To Parkinson's Disease
Steve Ludzik and Steve Larmer's careers will always be intertwined. The good buddies still share a laugh about it all.
In the late 1970s Larmer and Ludzik were partners in scoring prowess with the Niagara Falls Flyers of the OHA. The two formed a lethal and explosive scoring combination, and though Larmer would continue to score in the NHL whereas Ludzik became an stellar defensive player, it was Ludzik who was the more prolific of the two in junior hockey.
The Chicago Blackhawks drafted the dynamic duo in 1980, Ludzik was drafted 28th overall and Larmer, surprisingly, slipped to 120th. The two spent a year apprenticing together in the minor leagues with AHL New Brunswick, leading the Hawks to the Calder Cup championship, before making the jump to the NHL in 1982-83.
During that rookie season, one of the most famous hockey card mistakes of all time occurred. O-Pee-Chee issued each player's rookie card, but mixed up the photos. Ludzik's rookie hockey card depicted Larmer, while Larmer's depicted Ludzik.
The constant mixing up of the two Steve's ended fairly quickly. Larmer would star on the top line with Denis Savard, constantly scoring 40 goals a year. Ludzik would come to embrace a checking role during his nine years in the NHL. Playing with the likes of Tim Higgins, he transformed himself into a grinder with good speed and good anticipation. His scoring game never did materialize. His best year was 1984-85 when he scored a paltry 11 tallies.
Following a trade to the Buffalo Sabres in September 1989, Ludzik played in just eleven more NHL games before he was relegated to the minors with the AHL Rochester Americans.
Upon retirement he became quite interested in coaching, and quickly went from Colonial League coach of the year to IHL Turner Cup champion to Tampa Bay Lightning head coach. He also established himself as a television personality.
Then his life changed forever. His doctors informed him he had Parkinson's Disease. He wondered if his life in hockey and all those bodychecks and hits to the head contributed to his fate. His doctors can't prove the connection, but they don't disagree.
“They say they can’t prove it, and they can’t not prove it,” Ludzik said. “But it’s likely this is from damage to the head.”
As a result Ludzik has become an advocate to remove hitting from the game at the youth levels under the age of 14 years old.
"Despite battling Parkinson’s, severe liver problems and Crohn’s disease, I realize that I am truly blessed," he says.