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Former Flyer Peter Zezel passed away in a Toronto hospital today after a decade-long battle with a blood disorder called hemolytic anemia, a disease in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than the body can replenish them. He was 44 years old.
Selected by the Flyers with the 41st overall pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, Zezel began his NHL career in Philadelphia in 1984 as a rookie. His first season was also Bob Clarke's first as general manager, Mike Keenan's first as coach, and Rick Tocchet's first as a player. Zezel was part of a rebirth of Flyers hockey in 1984 -- out with the guys who helped win back-to-back Cups nine years earlier and in with the guys who would hopefully lead the team to that pinnacle once again.
The young, unproven Flyers fought their way to the Cup Final that season before losing to the Oilers in five games. But two years later, spurned in part by the best season of Zezel's career, the Flyers would find their way to a rematch with Gretzky, Messier, and the Oilers. They would fall this time in seven games, but they had played 26 playoff games in 50 days, and ultimately lost only to an unbelievable dynasty.
Zezel had 13 points in those playoffs despite playing injured for most of the time, an admirable effort from a great Flyer. He would be traded to the Blues the following season and would go on to play for seven different NHL teams.
His career ended in 1999 when he asked the Vancouver Canucks to trade him to the East Coast so he could be with a dying family member in Toronto. When Brian Burke, ironically the current GM of the Maple Leafs, traded him to Anaheim instead, Zezel immediately retired and moved back to Toronto, giving up his NHL career to be with family in need.
Rest and peace to a fan favorite and a great Flyer. Peter Zezel will be missed all around the hockey community.