‘A big gentle giant’: Former teammates and friends mourn loss of Canucks icon Gino Odjick


More friends, family, fans and former teammates are mourning the shocking loss of Vancouver Canucks legend Gino Odjick.

Odjick passed away on Sunday, according to his sister Dina Odjick, who shared news of his untimely death on Facebook.

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

READ MORE: Canucks fan favourite, Gino Odjick, dies at 52

At a press conference on Monday, Vancouver Canucks’ president of hockey operations acknowledged the tragic loss for the franchise.

“He was such an icon here and everybody that met him loved the guy,” Jim Rutherford said.

Former teammate Geoff Courtnall agreed.

Courtnall, originally from Victoria, played with Odjick from 1990 to 1996.

He told CHEK News Odjick was one of the most amazing teammates, with an upbeat personality.

“He was like a big gentle giant,” Courtnall said. “Always laughing, having fun and joking around with everybody.”

Odjick had one of the hardest jobs on the team, according to Courtnall. He said being an enforcer was hard work, but Odjick loved to defend his team.

“Nobody loved to compete, win and score goals like Gino. He didn’t score a lot, but when he did he celebrated like nobody,” Courtnall said, laughing.

He said off the ice, Odjick was an amazing human with a huge heart.

In 2014, Odjick was diagnosed with Amyloidosis — a disease he says attacked his organs and his heart.

Courtnall explained while Odjick was in and out of the hospital, he would spend a lot of time visiting.

He remembers when fans rallied in from of the hospital doors, cheering him on.

“I think we were on the 11th floor and there was all kinds of fans out there, pointing their signs up to Gino’s room and chanting his name,” Courtnall recalled.

He said it showed how truly loved Odjick was by his fans, adding Odjick loved them right back.

Leaving a legacy

Odjick wasn’t just known for the game he played, but also the inspiration he sparked.

He grew up on a reserve in Quebec. Once he was drafted into the NHL, he quickly became a role model for Indigenous youth.

“Gino was everybody’s idol for hockey. Everybody looked up to him, everybody wanted to be like him,” Chief Jen Thomas, Tsliel-Waututh First Nation, said.

He inspired many to pursue a career in hockey, including current Canucks defenceman Ethan Bear.

“He was definitely one of the first Indigenous players to make a trail for the rest of us,” Bear said.

During a post-game interview on Sunday, he told reporters that he grew up watching Odjick, adding that Odjick’s death is very sad for Indigenous communities.

“When you lose a legend like that, and someone who’s a big influence in a Native community, it’s tough,” he added.

Odjick wasn’t just a role model to Bear, he became a mentor.

Bear said Odjick encouraged him to be excited about the potential of joining the Canucks, and once he was on the team, the support grew.

“He would always message me,” Bear explained. “If I was playing well or needed to step it up, he was always there to give some little advice.”

The advice has been paying off, as Sunday night, Bear scored the Canucks’ first goal against the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I heard I scored right after [Odjick] passed,” said Bear. “I think that’s pretty powerful. It was meant to be. Maybe he was there for me on that shot.”

With files from The Canadian Press.

Mackenzie ReadMackenzie Read

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