January 20, 2023 || Written by Katie Lakusta
On January 15, 2023, the hockey world mourned the loss of community leader and ex-Canuck Gino Odjick. Odjick was well-known both during the time he played and for years after for his role in the NHL. His work with many Indigenous communities and youth across Canada is widely renowned in the hockey world. For all the love and support he’s shown the community, The Hockey Shop is also taking the time to celebrate his life and remember the legacy he left everyone around him.
As always, the end of this article includes further reading, video, and memorials dedicated to Gino, and it is highly recommended that readers take a look.
Wayne “Gino” Odjick was born on September 7, 1970, in the Algonquin reserve of Kitigan Zibi, right near Maniwaki Quebec. His father’s registration number when he was sent to residential school was 29— which is the number Odjick would wear when he played professional hockey.
At some point during the start of his career in Junior hockey, he evolved from a defensive defenseman to a left winger and enforcer, a player role that has been phasing out of the NHL due to various medical concerns and because they have become less of a requirement with the current state of the game.
An Enforcer was a player whose job was to respond to dirty and dangerous plays committed by the opposing team. If one of Odjick’s teammates were ever to get hit particularly hard, or if another player runs at his teammate with violent intent, it was Odjick’s job to respond, either by checking or fighting; he had to make sure the message “Stay away from my teammates” was made crystal clear.
As a Canuck
Ron Delorme was the first to notice Odjick during the Memorial Cup tournament, where Odjick played with Laval; Delorme in turn encouraged GM Pat Quinn to draft him, and in the end, Odjick was drafted in the fifth round, 86th overall by the Canucks in 1990.
Although starting out with the Canucks’ farm team for a few games, Odjick was established as an enforcer and key player right from the get-go once he was called up. He quickly became a fan favourite, with cheers of “Gino! Gino!” from the stands whenever he made an impact on the ice. As an enforcer though, he had quite the job to do. His first and second fights in the NHL both happened on the same night— on November 21, 1990, he took on both Dave Manson and Stu Grimson of the Chicago Blackhawks on two separate occasions.
Those fights don’t even quite match up to his most notable altercation. On May 17, 1995, when Glenn Anderson of the St. Louis Blues decided to poke at goalie Kay Whitmore after the play ended, Odjick was not having it. The fight that ensued, however, is much better described as “Gino Odjick vs The St. Louis Blues” rather than just Anderson, as Odjick would end up taking on the entire team in multiple on-ice fights; not even losing half his equipment in the process would stop him.
It should go without saying that enforcers tend to receive lots of penalty minutes. Throughout his career, he consistently had 200+ penalty minute seasons, and he still holds the franchise record of 2127 penalty minutes with the Vancouver Canucks. He received 37 penalty minutes from his 1995 fight against St. Louis alone.
Gino may have been an enforcer, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t produce. He had befriended Canucks legend Pavel Bure and even played on the same line as him for a while, and he was also an integral part of the team during the ’93-’94 Stanley Cup run. He played eight seasons with the Canucks before being traded to the Islanders in 1998, potentially due to a conflict involving him taking then-Captain Trevor Linden’s side during the latter’s feud with Mike Keenan— without the fear of any consequences.
Over his 12 years in the NHL, he played with the Vancouver Canucks, the New York Islanders, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Montreal Canadiens. He tallied 64 goals and 73 assists across 605 games; 13 of those goals being game-winners.
As a Community Leader
Despite being an enforcer during his hockey career, everyone who’s come in contact with him off the ice can best describe him as a gentle giant; he may have been feared on the ice, but he was beloved off the ice.
His most notable contributions were toward the Indigenous community, in particular youth communities. Odjick would donate hockey gear, relate to the kids, and inspire them to pursue an education as a gateway toward a successful future. He would credit Pat Quinn and Ron Delorme as his biggest supporters when visiting First Nations communities and hosting events.
In 2003, sometime after retirement, Odjick moved back to Vancouver and partnered with the Musqueam First Nation to manage the Musqueam Golf & Learning Academy. Even after hockey was over, he never stopped giving back to the community.
Gino Odjick was and still is an inspiration to not just the Indigenous communities he visited and supported, but also the many players who grew up watching him. Notable players inspired by Odjick include Carey Price and Ethan Bear, both of whom are also part of the Indigenous community.
Stan Smyl, ex-captain for the Vancouver Canucks and Odjick’s first linemate in the NHL, describes Odjick as “a friend to me, and you— he was a very special individual. 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.”
In June 2014, Odjick was diagnosed with AL amyloidosis and had been fighting the disease ever since. There is no known cure; amyloidosis is most often treated with chemotherapy and other treatments used for cancer. Odjick was only given a few months to live after the diagnosis, so he opted for experimental treatment.
Odjick had written an open letter to Canucks fans after his diagnosis, and that he may only have a few months or even weeks. Despite this, he still stayed as involved as he could in his community work and participation with the Vancouver Canucks at some of their games.
The BC Sports Hall of Fame inducted Odjick, as well as former teammate, Kirk McLean, on June 9, 2022, as part of the class of 2021, an event he got to witness and be a part of, and Maniwaki, QC renamed their arena after him in the summer of 2014. He will forever live on in every community he’s touched.
Gino Odjick, forever a Canuck.
Beamish, Mike. “Ex-Canucks ‘Algonquin enforcer’ Gino Odjick opens up about post-career, concussion-related struggles.” Vancouver Sun, 28 January 2014. Source link
Beck, Jason. “Gino Odjick.” BC Sports Hall of Fame, 2022. Source link
Beggs, Trevor. “9 memorable Gino Odjick moments with the Canucks.” DailyHive: Offside, 16 January 2023. Source link
Brehm, Mike. “Gino Odjick, one of NHL’s most feared fighters during his 12 seasons in the league, dies at 52.” USA Today, 15 January 2023. Source link
Canucks. “Honouring Gino Odjick - 1970-2023.” YouTube, uploaded by the Vancouver Canucks Media Team, 18 January 2023. Source link
Canucks. “Playoff Moment - Gino Odjick Fights the St. Louis Blues.” YouTube, uploaded by the Vancouver Canucks Media Team, 20 April 2015. Source link
“Gino Odjick.” NHL Player Stats, n.d. Source link
“Gino Odjick.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, 19 January 2023. Source link
Godbout, Neil. “Neil Godbout: Remembering Gino Odjick’s best game ever.” Prince George Citizen, 16 January 2023. Source link
Hockey Feed. “On this Day, 1990: Gino Odjick registers his 1st and 2nd NHL fight taking on Dave Manson and Stu Grimson.” Facebook, 21 November 2017. Source link
Lakusta, Katie. “National Indigenous Peoples Day - A History of Canadian Indigenous Peoples and Hockey.” The Hockey Shop: Source for Sports, 21 June 2022. Source link
Larivee, Jonathan. “The real reason Gino Odjick was traded by the Canucks.” HockeyFeed, 16 January 2023. Source link
Larivee, Jonathan. “Throwback: Gino Odjick takes on the entire St. Louis Blues roster.” HockeyFeed, 16 January 2023. Source link
Miljure, Ben. “Former Canuck Gino Odjick’s plaque unveiled at BC Sports Hall of Fame.” CTV News Vancouver, 8 June 2022. Source link
NHL. “Canucks honor Gino Odjick.” YouTube, uploaded by NHL Media Team, 18 January 2023. Source link
Quadrelli, David. “Top five fighters in Vancouver Canucks history.” Fansided, 2020. Source link
Raemason, Summer. “Ice Hockey Legend: Who was Gino Odjick?” The U.S. Sun, 16 January 2023. Source link
Staff. “Vancouver Canucks fan favourite, Wayne ‘Gino’ Odjick, dies at 52.” The Canadian Press, 15 January 2023. Source link
Vancouver Canucks. “Rest in peace ♡.” Twitter, 15 January 2023. Source link
Whiteduck, Chief Dylan. “Open Letter: The recent passing of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg member, Gino Odjick.” Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, 16 January 2023. Source link
Wilson, Odette. “Celebrating the Life of Gino Odjick.” Musqueam Indian Band, 18 January 2023. Source link
“Amyloidosis.” Mayo Clinic, 17 August 2022. Source link
“Enforcer.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, 15 December 2022. Source link