Gino Odjick is a retired Canadian professional ice hockey player who played for several teams in the National Hockey League (NHL) including the Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Montreal Canadiens.
He was known for his toughness and physical style of play. After his playing career, Odjick has been involved in various business ventures and is a respected member of the First Nations community.
The Vancouver Canucks have lost one of their most beloved players in history.
Wayne “Gino” Odjick, who spent 12 NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, and Vancouver Canucks, passed away at the age of 52.
On Sunday, Gino’s sister Dina Odjick posted on Facebook that he had passed away.
“Our hearts are broken. My brother Gino Odjick has left us for the spirit world,” she wrote.
After being chosen by the Canucks in the 1990 entry draught, Odjick played for them for his first eight seasons of professional hockey. In March 1998, he was sold to the New York Islanders in exchange for Jason Strudwick.
Odjick received a diagnosis of amyloidosis in 2014; he claims the condition attacked his heart and internal organs.
In 605 NHL games, the former enforcer recorded 64 goals and 73 assists. The 1994 Canucks Stanley Cup finalist squad featured Odjick as a significant player. He participated in 10 playoff games for the team, which fell to the New York Rangers in a grueling seven-game series.
Odjick was quite active in the community. His 2,127 penalty minutes are a Canucks team record, making him the franchise’s all-time leader in this category.
“Gino was a fan favorite from the moment he joined the organization, putting his heart and soul into every shift on and off the ice,” said Francesco Aquilini, the Canucks’ chairman and governor.
“He inspired many and embodied what it means to be a Canuck. Personally, he was a close friend and confidant, someone I could lean on for advice and support. He will be deeply missed.”
A former teammate of Odjick’s and current vice-president of hockey operations for the Canucks, Stan Smyl, characterized his friend as enthusiastic, kind, and witty, describing him as a jokester who could lighten the mood while still playing a challenging role.
“He was a friend to me, and you — he was a very special individual,” Smyl said Sunday. “The role that he had as a player was the toughest role to play in hockey and he handled it well. He was one of the greatest teammates I ever played with.”
Smyl said that Odjick never let the other NHL enforcers intimidate him and always stood up for the team’s stars, engaged in conflict when required, and protected them.
“His heart was in the middle of everything he did, all the time. That was Gino.”
Odjick was identified as having AL amyloidosis, a rare and fatal disease that results in the deposit of a gelatin-like protein in the heart muscle, impairing the organ’s capacity to expand and contract.
Odjick stated in an open letter to Canucks supporters that he had initially believed he would have a few years to live but that doctors had told him he would only have a few months or perhaps weeks left.
He was one of the most fearsome fighters of his time and was from Maniwaki, Quebec.
In the summer of 2014, Odjick’s hometown of Maniwaki renamed its arena in his honor. As an Aboriginal Canadian, Odjick was revered by many in the First Nations community.
Odjick was selected by Vancouver in the fifth round (86th overall) of the 1990 NHL Draft. During his time with the Canucks, he became good friends with sharpshooter Pavel Bure and last fall, he attended Rogers Arena for the Russian Rocket’s jersey retirement ceremony.
In April, Pat Quinn was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor during a ceremony that Odjick also attended. Quinn was the former Canucks general manager and head coach. In his letter to his followers, he said that the diagnosis came to him a few days later.
“I feel very fortunate for the support I’ve received over the years,” Odjick wrote in June. “During my career, I played in some great NHL cities including Vancouver, Long Island, Philadelphia, and Montreal.
“In my heart, I will always be a Canuck and I have always had a special relationship here with the fans.”
According to experts, Odjick had a very unusual, unknown-cause heart ailment that was virtually invariably fatal.
The secluded community had looked for Odjick as a motivational speaker, particularly for its youngsters, according to Betty Cahoose, health director of the Ulkatcho Indian Band in Anahim Lake, British Columbia.
“A lot of our people went to the residential school and he knows the struggles in our communities with drugs and alcohol so he was wanting to touch on that too, just basically from his own experience, what he had to endure to get where he was at with professional hockey,” Cahoose said.
“He really had a heart for the First Nations community. But unfortunately, he didn’t make it to our community. All of a sudden we didn’t hear from him.”
In Anahim Lake, where he was raised and where he launched breakfast programmes at two schools as part of a Breakfast Club of Canada effort, Cahoose said Montreal goalie Carey Price has also been an inspiration.
Cahoose expressed her wish that Odjick, who Price has cited as one of his role models, had also visited the young people at Anahim Lake. Odjick was known for encouraging kids to pursue education as a way out of poverty.
“I believe it really hits home to the kids when someone like him, a professional hockey player, comes into our neighborhood,” she added.
“They are interested in Gino’s experiences in overcoming the difficulties of becoming a professional hockey player as well as the difficulties he is aware our First Nation suffers. They also want to be inspired to become professional hockey players. And they can get through those obstacles, just like they can with drugs and alcohol and the idea that everything is possible no matter which path you took.”
When she met the former tough guy at the Vancouver airport approximately three years ago while she was waiting for a ticket home and he was on his way to a northern British Columbia community to deliver a motivational lecture, Cahoose claimed she witnessed the former tough guy’s soft side firsthand.
“We were sitting there, three or four of us when a young child approached and asked, “Do you know who that guy is?” I uttered “Odjick?” He responded, “Yeah!”
Odjick was led back to where they were waiting for their flights by many children who approached him, according to Cahoose.
“It was extremely nice that he took the time to chat with us and sit down with us. We were seated next to Gino, which made it quite thrilling.”
Cahoose was one among the hordes of supporters cheering for Odjick while he played for the Vancouver Canucks, where his tenacity made him a standout for eight seasons.
He was always the team’s tough guy in her memory, she added. We were quite proud of him being a First Nations person, so it was very thrilling.
Gino Odjick, a former NHL player known for his toughness and physical style of play, passed away. He played for teams such as the Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Montreal Canadiens.
He was a fan favorite, a respected member of the First Nations community, and an active member of the community. He passed away due to a rare heart disease called Amyloidosis. He will be greatly missed by the hockey community.
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