It’s no secret Tony Passero loved hockey.
For every game and practice, he sat in the same spot—Section U, seat 11—inside the Fort Erie Leisureplex.
Even after he lost his leg due to health reasons and it became difficult to maneuver up and down the arena stairs, Joe Fazio remembers that didn’t stop his cousin from watching Junior B games.
“He said to me, ‘Maybe we’ll just get a chair, or I’ll sit on the bench.’ He just wanted to be here all of the time,” he said.
Passero has been involved with the Greater Ontario Hockey League’s Golden Horseshoe Conference as a coach, owner, general manager and director of hockey operations of the Fort Erie Meteors for more than 40 years.
Passero played five seasons with Fort Erie before moving on to play professional hockey with the Erie Blades. He advanced to play hockey in Belgium and Italy before returning to Fort Erie where he became an assistant coach for the Meteors and later became the owner of the Fort Erie Meteors franchise in 1983.
Passero died on Saturday, April 6, 2019, at Hamilton General Hospital after a short illness.
Fazio, an assistant coach for the Fort Erie Meteors, said anyone who knew Passero knew he cared deeply about the kids that he coached and mentored.
“He just loved being at the rink and being involved with the kids,” Fazio said.
When asked about his favourite memories of Passero, Fazio said “there are too many” to tell.
“We often joked when we were all done here (with the Meteors), we were going to write a book,” Fazio said.
“At the end of the day, if I had to say one thing about Tony, everything he did, he did it for the kids. It was always about the kids. I think you’ll hear that.”
Fazio explained thousands of kids walked through the doors of the Leisureplex to play hockey for the Meteors over the years and Passero kept in touch with many of them.
Fazio recalled Passero was known for speaking his mind at league meetings.
“When you’re a small team from a small town, you always get stepped on. Tony made sure we didn’t.”
What Passero loved even more than hockey was his family.
“He loved his babies. His kids and his grandkids. He went everywhere with them…Whatever they were doing, he was always there for them,” Fazio said.
Passero’ s death has left a huge hole in the hearts of his family as well as the hockey community.
“I love the man dearly,” Fazio said.
On Saturday, the Ontario Hockey Association issued a statement acknowledging the loss of one of its own.
“Anyone who knew Tony knew he was very passionate about hockey, his team and his players. And he was not afraid to voice his opinion,” Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League convenor Paul Quaranta said in the statement.
“All our prayers and thoughts from our hockey community go out to Tony’s family and the Fort Erie Meteors during this difficult time.”
A moment of silence was observed in honour of Passero on Sunday night at the Gale Centre in Niagara Falls where the Canucks hosted the St. Catharines Falcons in Game 6 of the Golden Horseshoe Conference Final.
Passero is survived by his wife of 28 years Cheryl, his adoring children Meaghan, Nikolas and Anthony, the lights of his life, his three granddaughters Delaney “Big D”, Reaghan “Blondie” and Myley “Chochie.” His most special love, his mother Maria and his two brothers Sam and Gino, as well as many nieces, nephews, in-laws and friends.
Benner Funeral Services, at 1105 Benner Ave., have been entrusted with arrangements. Funeral services will be held at the Fort Erie Leisureplex on Thursday, April 11 at 11 a.m. Interment to follow in McAffee Cemetery.
After much thought, the family would encourage those considering making donations to consider the Canadian Diabetes Association or the Tony Passero Memorial Fund.