Two Minutes in The Box: With Ex-NHL Forward Steve Ludzik

Which teams did you play for in the NHL?

I played in Chicago for 8 years and then Buffalo for a bit, but I consider myself a Blackhawk.

What was it like playing in the NHL?

There were a lot better players than me, but I don’t think anyone enjoyed playing the game as much as I did or felt as privileged as I did. […] Some nights, I got caught with two left skates on my feet, but I gave it everything I had.

What was your most memorable moment?

My first game and my first goal which happened in my first game. We were playing against the Quebec Nordiques and we were losing 8-0. It was the 3rd period and I was put in and I scored on a slap shot from the blue line against Danny Bouchard. (Laughing) I must have caught him sleeping.

The NHL has changed so much over the years. What do you think of the game today?

It’s better! But when I played, we played against the best. Those were the best guys then. Today’s players are bigger and stronger. They train better. Skates are better, sticks are better, conditioning is better. Goalies are better because they can’t get hurt. The equipment makes them immune to pain.

Do you still watch hockey today?

Rarely. When I retired from coaching, because of the Parkinson’s, I did a TV show called “The Score,” and I got my fill there. I watch it once in a while but I don’t really follow as closely as I should. I do have great admiration for the players.

After your retirement from the NHL, you turned to coaching, eventually spending two years as Head Coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning. What was it like to be on the other side of the bench?

I always wanted to coach. I was 39 years old and I was put in the position to rebuild. It was a young team and a young organization. But to answer your question, it wasn’t good, and I don’t know if I handled it well. It’s not that I like to win – it’s that I hate to lose. There’s a big difference between the two. I hated the taste of losing and I just couldn’t stomach it.

You’re also a published author with your book, “Been There Done That”. What inspired you to write it?

I love when people tell me they loved my book. […] My life in hockey inspired me to write it. It was a tribute to the game I loved so much.

Now, you went public with your Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2012, but as you said, you kept it quiet for such a long time. What made you come out with it?

You probably won’t believe this, but I had a dream about my Dad. My Dad died very young. He was only 50. I had just made the NHL. I was raised by my Dad to not back down. Push back. When push comes to shove, shove back harder. You’ve got no option. You can’t be bullied. In my dream, my Dad came to me and told me to stop hiding and to go after this thing, this Parkinson’s. And that’s what I did. I went after it like the bully it is. It’s about bashing the bully.

You established the Steve Ludzik Parkinson’s Rehab Centre at the Hotel Dieu/Shaver in St. Catharines. Can you tell me about it?

It’s the #1 rated clinic in Canada. No one is even close to us. Because nobody else does this. It’s funded completely by donations. We have events that raise money – the Ball Drop done at Eagle Valley Golf Course and we have our annual NHL celebrity golf tournament. This year we are roasting Derek Sanderson in our celebrity roast. It’s sold out! I’m really excited about that.

You’re a hero, Steve, yet you’re so humble.

I used to say I was going to be the best hockey player. I was a good player but I wasn’t the best. I had my shot. Then when I was a coach, I said I was going to be the greatest coach that ever lived. Then I got Parkinson’s. When I went into broadcasting, I wanted to be the most colourful guy, behind Don Cherry of course. (laughs) I’ve helped a lot of people with Parkinson’s. I didn’t shy away from the cause. I stood up and was counted and have made a lot of money for Parkinson’s research and that’s good enough for me.

How do you remain so positive in the face of adversity?

I have no option. I refuse to back down and from this I’ve become a pretty solid role-model. I’m a go-getter and when push comes to shove, I shove back harder.

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