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Gino Odjick, Canucks fan favourite, dead at 52

Former Vancouver Canucks enforcer and fan favourite Gino Odjick has died at the age of 52.

The death was confirmed by the team and his sister Dina on Sunday.

“Our hearts are broken. My brother Gino Odjick has left us for the spirit world,” she wrote on Facebook.

Odjick played from 1990-2002 in the NHL, including eight years in Vancouver and two in Montreal.

He also played for the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers, recording 64 goals, 73 assists and 2,567 penalty minutes in 605 regular season games.

Odjick played 44 playoff games with Vancouver and Montreal, scoring four goals and an assist, often eliciting the chant of “Gino, Gino” from fans who appreciated his fierce style of play.

vancouver toronto nhl
Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Larry Murphy (55) checks Vancouver Canucks Mike Sillinger (26) to the ice as Canucks Gino Odjick, left, gets involved in this file photograph from 1996. (Canadian Press)

“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,” Francesco Aquilini, the team’s chairman and governor, said in a release.

Odjick was a key member of the 1994 Canucks, who lost the Stanley Cup in Game 7 of the final against the New York Rangers.

The 2,127 penalty minutes he amassed as a Canuck is the most in franchise history.

Odjick, from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation near Maniwaki, Que., announced nine years ago he had a rare terminal illness affecting his heart, AL (Primary) amyloidosis. Doctors said he may have had as little as a few weeks to live.

At the time, he wrote an open letter to fans, thanking them for their support over the duration of his career.

“Your ‘Gino, Gino’ cheers were my favourite. I wish I could hear them again. You have been amazing,” he wrote.

gino odjick fight
Los Angeles Kings Barry Potomaki, left, and Vancouver Canucks Gino Odjick go toe-to-toe during first period fight in NHL action in Vancouver, March 25, 1996. Both received five-minute penalties. (Chuck Stoody/The Canadian Press)

He also specifically addressed his Indigenous heritage.

“It also means the world to me that my hockey career gave me a chance to open doors for kids in [the] Aboriginal community. I was just a little old Indian boy from the Rez. If I could do it, so could they.”

Marcia McNaughton, a close friend of Odjick’s over the past 15 years, said he chose the number 29 for his hockey career because it was his father’s identification number from residential school.

Odjick ended up rallying from the disease after returning to the Ottawa area where doctors started an experimental treatment.

gino odjick canucks alumni
Odjick, centre, poses with fellow Canucks alumni in April 2016. (Halaw Group/Twitter)

‘Kicked ass’

McNaughton was with Odjick in hospital in 2014 in Vancouver when fans rallied outside to chant his name.

She said his death was a surprise, despite his health challenges. She was expecting to see him Wednesday at a Canucks home game.

“My heart’s broken as is probably all of British Columbia, every Canuck fan and you name it,” she said.

McNaughton wants people to remember Odjick for his kindness, warmth and resilience.

“Fighter, through and through,” she said in describing him. “That’s who he is and that’s who he was. He made it longer than probably he was supposed to and he kicked ass while doing it.”

On Sunday, many people posted messages on social media saying Odjick was a special person who gave back to the communities he lived in.

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