Peter Zezel died on Tuesday at age 44. Hockey fans will recognize the name because he played for 15 yearsin the NHL. Flyer fans especially will remember Peter in glowing terms because he was a tremendous player on the teams that went to two Cup finals against the Oilers.
Beyond his hockey career, Peter was my friend. I hadn't talked to Pete in quite a few years. An occassional e-mail here and there, but we lost regular contact after he was dealt to St. Louis. For the 6 seasons he played with the Flyers and then a few years afterward, we spoke regularly and socialized frequently. I met Pete at one of Joe Watson's summer hockey camps where he was a guest instructor. We were only 18 months apart and had similar affections...cars, girls, and the beach. Peter had a beautiful 1985 Buick Regal Gran Sport. He had chipped it and had some other work done to it and it was blindingly fast. He loved that car and he'd crowd a bunch of buddies into it and go off on some crazy adventure as lots of 20 year olds will do.
In 1988 Pete was selected "Sexiest Male Athlete of Philadelphia" by Philadelphia magazine. He was embarrassed by it and never let it get to his head. Pete was just one of the guys, hanging out, playing shinny in the summers at U of D and hanging at Maloney's in Margate.
My most enduring memory as a friend will be the game against Boston in 1987. It was the last home game before christmas and I had gotten some tickets and went to the game with a friend. The Flyers were playing Washington the next night and then heading home for a few days for Christmas. After the game, I went out back where the buses were loading for the road trip to D.C. and I didn't see Pete standing outside and assumed he was already on board. Peter happened to glance out the window and saw me and ran off the bus calling my name as I walked away. He gave me a hug and we wished each other Merry Christmas. We talked for a minute or two and then shook hands and went our way. That's the kind of friend he was. In that moment, he wasn't Peter Zezel, Pro Hockey Player...he was Craig's friend Zez, and he wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas.
Godspeed my friend...I miss those days. Thanks for the memories on and off the ice.