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September 29, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Stelio Zupancich


This is Stelio Zupancich. Very few people will remember that he represented Canada at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

Zupancich was raised by his father, Stelio Sr., a former pro soccer player back in Europe. He had divorced his wife when Stelio Jr. was just 2 years old.


Stelio Jr took to the ice rather than the soccer pitch. He completely loved the game.


"It meant everything to me," he said.


He went on to a strong junior career with the Oshawa Generals


The 5'9" 180lb forward left the Oshawa Generals and joined the Canadian national team in 1979-80. The speedy forward made the final Olympic cut and played in Lake Placid alongside the likes of Glenn Anderson, Randy Gregg, Paul MacLean, Tim Watters and Jim Nill. Zupancich was not just a depth player, either, I might add. He scored 4 points in 6 Olympic games. Canada failed to medal in that tournament.


 ''I have a closet full of Olympic souvenirs and Olympic clothes," Zupancich says, ''but I leave them there and never wear them. Sometimes, I open the door and look at them hanging there, but I don't put them on. I don't think a day goes by that I don't think about Lake Placid. I'm envious as hell of the Americans: envious because I realized then and I realize now that we were as good as they were, or better. We could have done it."


 'It took a long time," Zupancich said, ''to learn how to play the international game. To learn not to retaliate wasn't easy. It's tough to play without losing your cool against guys who'd sell their grandmothers to win. To take a bunch of college guys and do as well as we did was pretty remarkable, but nobody knows what the score was when we played the Soviets, because we lost."

Never drafted by a NHL team Zupancich went on to become a Hall of Fame player at the University of Toronto. He briefly played in Switzerland after being cut from the Canadian national team in a bid to compete in the 1984 Olympics, as well.


He returned to Toronto and became a banker, working his way up to a Vice President with the TD Bank.


Years later he was in the headlines once again as the result of a generous gift from his birth mother. She had won the lottery and gave him $2 million, much to the chagrin of the rest of the mother's family who had no idea she had another son from a previously failed marriage. This all came out in trials after his mother mysteriously died. Her long time husband, Dr. Joseph Roncaioli, was found guilty of manslaughter.

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