Ex-NHLer Zezel Close to Death From Rare Disease

Sad news out of Toronto today. Ex-NHL star Peter Zezel has been taken off of life support, as he will apparently succumb to a rare blood disorder that has plagued him for years. Zezel, only 44 years old, nearly died of hemolytic anemia in 2001 but recovered. This time, he’s not going to be so lucky.

Peter Zezel

Zezel scored 219 NHL goals, and was instrumental in helping the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985 (as a 19-year-old) and 1987. He also played a key role for the Maple Leafs when they reached the conference finals in 1993 and 1994. Zezel famously retired from the NHL in 1999 when Canucks GM Brian Burke refused to trade him to an Eastern Conference team so he could be closer to his niece, who was dying of cancer. Burke shipped Zezel to Anaheim instead, prompting his retirement and setting off a ton of negative publicity toward Burke and the Canucks, who were not contenders at the time.

I’m sure all this is making Burke feel good about the way he treated Zezel.

CTV in Toronto confirmed today that Zezel is close to death:

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Peter Zezel will be taken off life support today after a long battle with a blood disorder.

The 44-year-old had fallen into a coma at Toronto General Hospital. He recently underwent chemotherapy and had his spleen removed.

Zezel was plagued by injuries for much of his career, and while he established himself early on as primarily an offensive player he eventually turned into one of the better two-way forwards in the NHL. He was also one of the best in the league at winning faceoffs.

Zezel was also an accomplished soccer player, and was drafted by the Toronto Blizzard of the old NASL. Since his retirement, he’s been running hockey and soccer camps in Toronto.

However, many of you might best remember him as one of Rob Lowe’s teammates in the hockey movie “Youngblood“.

I hope Burke, the current GM of the Leafs, is man enough to come out and acknowledge the crappy way he treated Zezel a decade ago.

UPDATE: A number of sources are now reporting that Zezel has passed away.