Former NHL forward Gino Odjick died of a heart attack on Sunday. He was 52.
Odjick's cause of death was revealed by long-time friend Peter Leech, who was with Odjick when he collapsed prior to an appointment at a medical clinic and later died.
“He had a heart attack, couldn’t recover from it. We knew this day was going to come, we didn’t know when. We were hoping much later,” Leech told Postmedia by phone.
“He collapsed in the clinic, thank god the nurses were there. They worked on him for 45 minutes,” Leech told Postmedia. “It was tough to watch.”
Odjick's sister, Diana, first shared the news of her brother's passing on Facebook.
In 2014, Odjick was diagnosed with Al amyloidosis, a rare blood disease that caused abnormal protein deposits to coat and harden his heart. He was given weeks to months to live, but after receiving an experimental treatment in Ottawa he continued to beat the odds and by 2017, announced that he was in remission.
The rugged winger was a fan favourite in Vancouver, where he played eight of his 12 NHL seasons and served as the team's enforcer. Odjick also had stints with the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens. In 605 regular-season games, Odjick compiled 64 goals, 173 points and 2,567 penalty minutes.
"Gino was a fan favourite from the moment he joined the organization, putting his heart and soul into every shift on and off the ice," Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini said in a statement. "He inspired many and embodied what it means to be a Canuck.
"The entire Canucks organization our heartfelt condolences and love to all of Gino's family and friends."
Nicknamed the "Algonquin Assassin," Odjick grew up in the First Nations community of Kitigan Zibi near the town of Maniwaki, Que., and about an hour from Ottawa. During his induction to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame last summer, Odjick credited his parents, Joe and Marie-Antoinette, with instilling the values that made him revered by teammates and fans alike.
“My father was a residential school survivor. He taught us to stick together,” he said at the time, via The Province.
Odjick was drafted by the Canucks in the fifth round in 1990 after spending two seasons with the QMJHL's Laval Titan.
Upon news of his passing, tributes poured in from across the hockey world:
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