Blow to 1980’s Blackhawk legend’s battle with cancer

LysiakTom

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

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com
PuckChatter@gmail.com
Twitter.com/ChrisBlock

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9 Responses to Blow to 1980’s Blackhawk legend’s battle with cancer

  1. Chris,

    You’re so right about Lysiak being known for so much more than his infamous tripping incident. I’ll never forget what Larry Deutsch who like me was at that game; “Foyt deserved it, he was terrible all night.”

    A little side note; after Bob Verdi did a piece on Keith Brown, through a round about way I contacted Keith. I was impressed with what Verdi noted about his faith and asked Brown about it. we had some great correspondence and Keith said it was Lysiak who led him too his strong faith in Christ. tom invited him to a dinner with his pastor. Quite ironically, Keith also noted Stu Grimsom wasa strong believer!

    My thoughts and prayers go out to lysiak and his family, he was a wonderful hockey player and I’m guessing a wonderful dad and human being.

    Sorry to hear about Steve ludzik. I wasn’t aware he suffered from Parkinson’s. i have a close friend who has battled it for years- it’s a lot tougher than fighting for the puck in the corners.

  2. Can you please update me on Tom Lysiak’s health status and if he has any plans to come to Chicago for a Hawks game?

  3. I watched Tommy play his whole time with the Blackhawks. We would hang out
    at Jays down on Rush Street, and would have a great time. The other teams would even join in on the party. My mother in law lives in Pueblo Co. She recently sent me a letter saying she had met Dave Feamster, and has asked me if I remember him. I said that I remember all the 1980 guys. I have many photos of all the teams from all the era’s. When I wrote her back I told her about a lot of the

    The Tom Snarich family prays for the Tom lysiak family.
    I watched you play for the Blackhawks and you were the best.
    You were the player that kept us interested in the Hawks when others
    were not. When you came from Atlanta we did not know what to think,
    everyone talks about the game where you tripped the ref , but we remember
    when you put the puck between your skates and went through the defense.
    What a great move. My mother in law lives in Pueblo CO. and has talked to
    Dave Feamster and asked me if I remember him. Sure i remember all the times
    at Jays and the other bars on Rush street, but most of all I remember
    Tom Lysiak.

    Thanks for the memories; Tom Snarich

    memories of the 1980 Chicago Blackhawks. I was sorry to say that the only player that I could talk

  4. I loved watching Tom play, he was my favorite player, I still have my #12 jersey, I still wear it. I remember the game when he got suspended, I was devistated. I was invited up to the box to meet him, it was the best day of my life. Prayers and thoughts to the Lysiak family. I pray that they find a doner.

  5. I was one of Tom’s teachers back in High Prairie. Watched him play many midget games. One of the best of all time. I was just trying to find out if he is in the NHL hall od fame..certainly should be.

  6. No, he is not in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Great player though. He appeared on a Hockey Night in Canada show called “Showdown” where the league greats would compete against each other. In the shoot out competition, he stick handled the puck so fast in front of the goalie you could not follow it. It was several seconds before the moderators or anyone else figured out that he had put the puck in the net. Amazing. He led the Flames in scoring in all 5 full seasons he played there but in 78-79 both Bob MacMillan and Guy Chouinard played center too and Tom’s contract was too big to hang on to for cash strapped Atlanta. God Bless him and his family in this trying time. He brought a lot of pleasure to hockey fans…

  7. My best wishes go out to the lysiak family. My dad (Dennis Gordon) was a childhood friend of Mr. Lysiaks. I remember seeing pictures of my dad from his minor hockey days in High Prairie, and seeing Mr Lysiak in all of the team photos, and my dad telling me how good Tom was while they were growing up. We lived in Peace River, AB. not far away from High Prairie. Mr. Lysiak’s childhood relatinship with my father was the reason that at an early age, I was wearing a Blackhawks jersey to school when I was constantly surrounded by # 99 oilers jerseys. Man did I get teased. Look whos laughing now! I haven’t told my father the news concerning Mr. Lysiak’s illness, but I’m sure when I do that he’ll have something to say about it in the form of a story from a wonderful childhood hockey memory from days gone by. God bless.

    • Hey Bob,

      Tell your father Tom’s hanging in there. The situation is still the same at last check. His daughter’s getting married to Justin Braun this Saturday and Tom will be there.

  8. Tom lived next door to me when he played for the atlanta Flames, he actually taught me the game of hockey, he and Dwight Bialowas (his room mate at the time) we all spent a lot of time together at his home and mine. I hope he is doing better and he beats this horrible disease. In my heart forever, send my love.

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