Hockey world remembers Gino Odjick: 'Tough guy with a kind heart'

Gino Odjick is remembered fondly by players, fans and media alike.

Hundreds of fans cheer in support of Vancouver Canucks' enforcer Gino Odjick outside Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday June 29, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Gino Odjick, a beloved Vancouver Canucks player from 1990-98, died at the age of 52 on Sunday.

The news was first reported by Gino’s sister, Dina, who shared her brother’s passing via Facebook.

"Our hearts are broken. My brother Gino Odjick has left us for the spirit world," Dina wrote.

Odjick’s passing was announced on the broadcast during the Canucks-Hurricanes matchup, with team chairman and governor Francesco Aquilini issuing a statement post-game.

“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,” Aquilini said.

“He inspired many and embodied what it means to be a Canuck,” Aquilini continued. “Personally, he was a close friend and confidant, someone I could lean on for advice and support. He will be deeply missed.”

The Canucks also released an interview clip via social media of vice-president of hockey operations Stan Smyl, who also shared his condolences to his one-time teammate’s family. The two played one season together in 1990-91 — Odjick’s rookie campaign.

"He was a friend to me, and to you and all his fans here in B.C. and throughout North America," Smyl said. “He was a very special individual. On the ice, what did he had to do, but off the ice he was one of the kindest human beings that I've met and played with.”

The rest of the hockey community also took to social media to share their thoughts and feelings regarding the former Canucks’ passing.

Ethan Bear, who opened the scoring for Vancouver during its 4-3 victory over Carolina, potted his third goal of 2022-23 shortly after Odjick’s death was announced. And the young defenceman was emotional post-game as he recalled his relationship with his fellow Indigenous Canadian.

Odjick was taken to a medical clinic by his longtime friend Peter Leech on Sunday to have bandages on his legs replaced, but he collapsed shortly after arriving and was immediately treated by nearby nurses, according to Postmedia's Patrick Johnston.

It was later revealed that the Maniwaki, Que., native suffered a heart attack, which was too severe to recover from.

“I was there for the whole thing,” Leech explained to Postmedia. “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.”

Odjick was diagnosed with AL Amyloidosis — a condition where proteins form deposits on the heart, eventually causing it to be unable to function — in 2014. He was afforded just a few months to live back then, but thanks to his first-class medical professionals, he significantly exceeded that initial prognosis.

The 12-year NHL professional endured two previous setbacks with the disease, with his most incident occurring last year, which required chemotherapy treatment. Most recently, an infection developed in his leg, causing doctors to treat it with bandages.

But Odjick’s appointment, which was supposed to be routine, quickly turned serious for everyone involved.

“He collapsed in the clinic, thank god the nurses were there. They worked on him for 45 minutes,” Leech said. “It was tough to watch.

“I’ve had a few good cries already. I think it will probably hit me some time later.”

The 6-foot-3, 224-pound forward was selected in the fifth round by the Canucks in 1990, playing 444 career games with the franchise. He notched 46 goals, 98 points and 2,127 penalty minutes across eight seasons.

Odjick enjoyed his best season in 1993-94, posting career highs in goals (16) and points (29) en route to Vancouver’s second of three Stanley Cup Final berths.

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