By Chris Block
Sad news to report today of a former Chicago Blackhawk legend, who is now in the biggest battle of his life, suffering with cancer.
Tom Lysiak, 60, was diagnosed with cancer back in May and doctors have been searching for a suitable match for a bone marrow transplant they had hoped to perform this month.
On Tuesday, Lysiak’s daughter Jessica announced on her Twitter account that though she was previously thought to be a bone marrow match for her father, she learned from the medical institute today that she, herself, will not be able to provide the bone marrow donation her father needs.
She wrote, “Days away from my dad’s transplant and I just got a call from the hospital canceling me as the bone marrow donor #prayingforamatch.”
Jessie Lysiak, 27, the daughter of Tom and his wife, Melinda, was to undergo the bone marrow extraction procedure in Georgia next week. Tom has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments since his diagnosis. Jessie began thorough blood testing to determine her ability to donate her bone marrow to her father back in June.
The daughter of the former Chicago Blackhawks and Atlanta Flames star was recently a contestant on the reality TV series MasterChef on the FOX network.
Jessie Lysiak was among the final five contestants on season 4 of MasterChef this summer until she was voted off on the episode that aired last week, September 4th.
Her parents, Tom and Melinda, appeared alongside Jessie on the episode that was broadcasted on July 31st. Those who saw the show indicated nothing seemed out of the ordinary about Tom Lysiak’s appearance in the episode.
However, the current season of MasterChef was filmed entirely during the first quarter of 2013, and Tom’s cameo was shot a few months prior to his diagnosis.
Lysiak was inducted into the Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in June of 2012, eleven months before he and his family would learn he had become stricken with cancer.
Steve Ludzik, a teammate on the Chicago Blackhawks during the early to mid 1980’s, gave the presentation speech for Lysiak at the induction ceremony in suburban Detroit in the summer of 2012.
In an interview with TheThirdManIn.com in September 2012, Ludzik noted how well Lysiak, 59 at the time, looked.
“Tommy Lysiak looks tremendous,” Ludzik said of how Lysiak appeared the night he was inducted into the Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.
Ludzik and Lysiak were good friends during their time with the Blackhawks and have remained in touch since. Ludzik has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for more than ten years now.
“[Tommy] was a man’s Man,” Ludzik told us. “When he told you ‘We’re going (out) for lunch’ – then you’re going out for lunch at Stefano’s (a regular hangout of the Blackhawks in the 80’s),” Ludzik laughed while reminiscing about their old off-day spot. “And it could be all day. And you might eat supper there, that night too!”
“[Lysiak] was one of the greatest guys I ever met in the game,” Ludzik said in our 2012 interview. “It was really sad, the day he retired.”
In most current hockey circles, Tom Lysiak is most-notoriously known for a 1983 on-ice incident when he intentionally tripped NHL linesman Ron Foyt. The indiscretion, which took place during a 6-1 Blackhawks victory over the Hartford Whalers at Chicago Stadium on October 30, 1983, resulted in Lysiak being levied with what, at the time, was an NHL record 20-game suspension. That record was since been broken by the likes of Dale Hunter and Raffi Torres.
That suspension, regularly used as suspension conversational fodder today, was hotly controversial at the time since the league allowed suspensions to be handed out at the discretion of the on-ice officials in those times. Lysiak and the NHLPA, led by Alan Eagleson in those days, appealed the suspension, eventually to no avail, but not before the matter appeared before the Cook County Circuit Court.
As the story goes, on that October 30th night, Lysiak had been thrown out of the face off circle a handful of times by linesman Ron Foyt. Lysiak was upset, feeling Foyt was tossing him for little or no reason. In Lysiak’s estimation, Foyt was trying to show him up. So after being waved out of a fourth or fifth consecutive face-off, Lysiak decided to forgo the next one and allow Darryl Sutter to step in. Lysiak, feeling Foyt had it in for him by this point, decided he was going to get back at the NHL official. After Sutter took the draw, Lysiak, instead of playing the puck, which had come near the Blackhawks center, but to Whaler forward Sylvain Turgeon, skated up behind Foyt, put his stick between the lineman’s legs and upended Foyt. Lysiak was cited by referee Dave Newell for violating a new league rule, put in place to crack down on abuse of officials. And it was Newell who determined it was a 20-game offense. Even decades after he left the game, Lysiak has claimed he wouldn’t change his decision to trip Foyt on that fall Chicago evening.
Its rather unfortunate, in a sense, that many modern era fans only associate Lysiak with an action that would typically be typecast as goon-ish behavior. Tom Lysiak was anything but.
Lysiak was born in the small Canadian town of High Prairie, in northern Alberta, on April 22, 1953.
The 6-foot 1-inch, 205 pound forward went on to star for the Medicine Hat Tigers, mounting a spectacular 1972-73 year, at a whopping 58 goals and 96 assists in 67 regular season games leading up to the 1973 NHL Draft.
At the 1973 draft, Lysiak was picked 2nd overall by the Atlanta Flames. The New York Islanders used the first pick on future Hall of Famer, Denis Potvin.
Lysiak jumped immediately into the NHL in 1973 and led the Flames in scoring his rookie season, Atlanta’s second in the NHL. Tom Lysiak would go on to lead the Atlanta Flames in each of the five full seasons he played in the state of Georgia.
During the 1978-79 season, Lysiak was traded from Atlanta to the Blackhawks, a move Lysiak admittedly was not fond of at first. Chicago was a bad team in an even worse Smythe Division at the time.
Lysiak though did report to Chicago and would eventually find it to be a prosperous move. Though injuries took a toll on the back half of Lysiak’s career, he did appear in 474 regular season games over eight seasons with the Blackhawks.
With 137 goals and 275 assists, Tom Lysiak is one of only 23 players in Blackhawks franchise history to thus far post more than 400 regular season points in the Indian head sweater. His 412 points should be eclipsed by Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews this coming season. Patrick Kane has 424 now.
Chronic back and shoulder injuries forced Lysiak out of a Blackhawks uniform, and the NHL, at the age of 33. When Lysiak learned the Blackhawks were not going to sign, nor invite Lysiak to their training camp in 1986, Lysiak chose to leave the game gracefully and announced his retirement.
In retirement, Lysiak retreated back to suburban Atlanta, where he’s lived a quiet life on a small farm, with his family ever since.
Lysiak’s daughter Jessica had been a model for the previous decade before becoming a cook and yacht stewardess, living and working in the Bahamas and Virgin Islands.
She says she was persuaded to try-out for the MasterChef reality series by her mother, as she claims it was Melinda’s favorite show.
Jessie Lysiak has been in a relationship with San Jose Sharks defenseman Justin Braun for more than a year and spends part of the hockey season in San Jose.
The Polish-American Hall of Fame is an honor Tom Lysiak shares with his one-time Blackhawks teammate Ed Olczyk (inducted in 2004), former Chicago Bears tight end and head coach Mike Ditka (2001), Carl Yastrzemski, Phil and Joe Niekro, Bill Mazeroski, Stan Musial and former professional wrestler Wladek “Killer” Kowalski, among many others.
Our sincerest thoughts and wishes go out to the Lysiak family in hopes for a donor match and Tom’s full recovery.
For those looking to send well-wishes to the family, you can reach Tom Lysiak’s daughter Jessie via Twitter at Twitter.com/MC4Jessie