Peter Zezel Passes Away at 44 Years of Age

Update: It's been confirmed that Peter Zezel passed away this afternoon. I neglected to mention the sports camps that he's been running in Toronto as well as the love he had for the Maple Leafs. Some opposition fans have been kind enough to relate their memories of Peter Zezel and if any others are lurking than we would definitely love to hear from you. The amazing thing is that even in death Zezel was looking to help others as he donated his organs to the Trillium Gift of Life Network.

Update II: If you are looking for a way to express your sympathy Down Goes Brown has found this request from the family:

His family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Peter Zezel’s name to the James Birrell Fund at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The cheques should be made payable to "The James Fund" and can be mailed to:

The James Fund
625 Whitaker Street #4
Peterborough, ON
K9H 7L5
Canada

TSM reported earlier that Peter Zezel had been taken off of life support and CTV are confirming the news. He underwent surgery and suffered from complications related to a rare blood disease hemolytic anemia. To tell you the truth, I had never heard of this disease before but apparently it results in the premature breaking down of red blood cells. From what I have read it seems like a testament to Zezel's character that he was able to carve such a normal life for himself after the diagnosis and the loss of his spleen. He was still involved in hockey as a coach and a player:

He played briefly the past couple of years for the Serbian White Eagles in the Canadian Multicultural Hockey League, operated a well-known hockey school and coached in the Don Mills Flyers organization, in which he had begun playing in the old MTHL.

His career spanned 15 seasons with seven different clubs but it's hard for me to think of him as anything other than a Leaf thanks to the contributions he made to the 1993 and 1994 playoff runs. His most memorable goal as a Leaf for me came in the latter spring:

Toronto won game one at Maple Leaf Gardens on Peter Zezel's goal at 16:55 of the first overtime period.

Unbelievably, YouTube has the video so you can relive the game and Zezel's goal:

 

He was mostly noted for his face-off prowess and defensive abilities. His use of his feet on face-offs were displays of his soccer ability and a fellow devotee of footy it spurred me to learn to maximise this skill. Along with Wendel Clark (practice your wrist shot, play physical, and crash the net), Peter Zezel probably had the biggest impact on the way I played the game. It's hard to believe that he left Toronto as compensation for the signing of Mike Craig. The end of his career definitely doesn't shine a good light on Brian Burke but he clearly learned from that incident.

I'll post links to any tributes to Zezel as they are published. In the meantime, what was your favourite memory of the man? Mine was definitely that goal in '94 but seeing him in Youngblood when I finally watched the movie a couple of years ago is a close second.

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