teve Ludzik recalls standing at the top of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls at the young age of 16 with a sense of awe. “It looked like Las Vegas to us. It was 10:00 pm and my buddy, John Kirk, and I were looking at our hockey contracts saying, ‘This is unbelievable,” recalls Ludzik. “I had just left home to play junior down here.” Prior to this evening, Ludzik had spent two months in the hospital for his Crohn’s Disease. “I didn’t listen to anyone who said I was too sick to play. I was the seventh round pick: the scrap yard of hockey. I came to camp here in Niagara Falls weighing 198 pounds and tore it up,” says Ludzik. From 1981-1993, Ludzik had a successful career in the NHL. He played for the Chicago Black Hawks and the Buffalo Sabres for a total of 424 games, 46 goals, and 93 assists before becoming the Head Coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Shortly after being let go as the coach of the Lightning, Ludzik received a call to appear as a guest on The Score, and his career in sports broadcasting and writing began. Ludzik’s life has had its ups and downs, particularly with his health. “I was 39 years old when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I kept up a pretty hectic schedule until I came out with it five years ago,” says Ludzik. His decision to discuss his health issues publicly came from a desire to confront the disease and a willingness to help others in their fight against it. “When I was nine years old, a 13 year old kid was bugging me and I came home with a black eye. My mom went to call the school and my dad told her to put down the phone. He said to me, ‘Tomorrow you need to drop him and he is going to stop,’” recalls Ludzik. “So, I treat Parkinson’s like a bully,” says Ludzik. “I try not to be intimidated by it.” “Parkinson’s causes stiffness and rigidity in your limbs with tremors in your hands and in your body. It disrupts your sleeping patterns and tires you out during the day,” says Ludzik. “It is a tricky son of a bitch.
It pecks and pokes at you until there is nothing left of you,” explains Ludzik. Being grateful for the excellent care he has received by his Toronto based physician, he knew the Niagara Region would benefit from a rehabilitation facility close to home. It quickly became his goal to start a rehabilitation clinic to help individuals like himself deal with the symptoms of the disease. Ludzik also wanted to share his treatment regime and knowledge of the disease with others. “For ten years, I’ve been hitting the punching bag in my garage for 20 minutes a day. Now, the experts are saying it is most fitting for the disease.” In 2013, The Steve Ludzik Centre for Parkinson’s Rehabilitation opened up inside Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St Catharines. The Centre has an interprofessional approach to treatment consisting of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, social work, rehabilitation, dietary counselling, and advanced practise nursing. “Truthfully, I get a kick out of helping people. I greet them at the Parkinson’s Clinic on a Monday, when they start the program, and six weeks later I see them and they are totally different people,” says Ludzik. The program, which is ranked number one in Canada, is free for participants and is not covered under OHIP nor does it receive government funding. However, there is a need for continued funding and donations as there are currently 200 individuals on the waitlist. “Our objective is to raise more funds to close the gap, so no one has to wait that long,” says Tim Housser, who volunteers his time as Director of the Steve Ludzik Foundation. In April of 2015, Bob Miller participated in the program. “As a result of that program, I am happy to say I experienced an overall improvement >>