SUN Hockey Pool

'We all loved him,' Gilmour says of Zezel

JENNY YUEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:24 AM ET

MISSISSAUGA -- They donned jerseys with the No. 25 to remember him.

Peter Zezel wasn't just a hockey player -- he was a friend, family member and beloved coach. And at 44, too young to die from a rare blood disorder.

"It's a shock, we're disappointed, we all loved him and we can't believe it," former Leafs teammate Doug Gilmour said yesterday at the funeral. "I remember our time together in Toronto and he was my roommate for two years and he's been coaching my son."

Hundreds of people packed St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church with at least 150 left standing outside yesterday morning to say goodbye to Zezel.

Among them were former Leafs Wendel Clark and Bill Berg, and Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley.

Zezel, 44, died Tuesday after a decade-long battle with hemolytic anemia, which almost claimed his life in 2001.

Gilmour said Zezel didn't appear ill and he was shocked with the abrupt death.

"Last week, he said he couldn't wait to get into better shape and he was looking forward to (coaching) this year, because they'd be that much better," Gilmour said.

Gilmour's son, Jake, is a member of Zezel's Don Mills Flyers peewee team.

Youths sporting the team jersey exited the church yesterday after the service, some wiping away tears.

"He was a great coach and we'll really miss him," said Joseph Dinardo, 12, who knew Zezel years prior to him being his coach. "He's like a father or uncle to us."

JENNY.YUEN@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos