Former Maple Leaf Peter Zezel dies at age 44
Published Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:58PM EDT
Former Toronto Maple Leaf Peter Zezel has died at the age of 44.
The National Hockey League Players Association confirmed his passing on its website early Tuesday evening.
"The hockey community has suffered a great loss today. Peter was a friend and a great family man who was well liked by everyone he crossed paths with in our game," NHLPA Director of Player Affairs Glenn Healy said.
"Our thoughts are with Peter's family and many friends during this difficult time."
Zezel died following complications from a long-time blood disorder, the NHLPA said.
His family released a statement through the NHLPA.
"Peter will forever be remembered as a great teammate and a wonderful individual, who touched the lives of many both on and off the ice," his family said.
"In his typical character of generosity, Peter has donated his organs through the Trillium Gift of Life Network. We would like to thank all of Peter's friends and family for their support and we ask for privacy during this difficult time."
The 44-year-old had fallen into a coma at Toronto General Hospital. He recently underwent chemotherapy and had his spleen removed.
For the last 11 years, Zezel operated hockey camps in Etobicoke, Ont.
During his time as a Leaf from 1991 to 1994, Zezel scored 50 goals and 78 assists in 207 games.
On his personal website, a short biography says Zezel "realized a childhood dream" the day he was traded to the Maple Leafs on Jan. 16, 1991.
His former teammate and fellow ex-Leaf, Mark Osborne, said Zezel was "the ultimate caring friend and teammate."
Current Maple Leaf GM Brian Burke said Zezel was a classy and "consummate professional" when he played in the NHL.
Zezel was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft.
He played in 873 games for seven teams during his 15-year NHL career, collecting 219 goals and 389 assists along the way.
With files from The Canadian Press