It’s no secret that I love my enforcers. There’s just something about that role on the ice that can’t fill any other part of my hockey loving heart. I also can’t help but see my youth fly by me this summer. The Hall of Fame class of 2014 is made up of players that I use to have posters and hockey cards of. Adorning the walls of my room with the likes of Mike Modano, Peter Forsberg, and Eric Lindros was a man who was born and raised just a few highways down from me. That man wore the black, orange and yellow of the 1990’s Vancouver Canucks and helped instill fear into anyone who stepped in the path of Trevor Linden or Pavel Bure.
He answers to the name of “The Maniwaki Mauler” or “The Algonquin Assassin”.
Now these names may come across as a bit murderous in nature. Make no mistake of it; on the ice, that’s what Gino Odjick intended to do.
Born on the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation reserve in 1970, Odjick grew to be a monstorous 6’3”. Add a pair of skates and you can just feel his presence staring down at you without him even being there. A proud member of the Algonquin nation, the reserve was situated near the Gatineau Rivers and just west of Maniwaki, Quebec. Currently, the town holds a population of just over a thousand. When Odjick was growing up, it was less than 500. Getting to the NHL, hell even playing recreational hockey, was sometimes just a dream of many a kid from the reserve.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the natives of most reserves and the populations of nearby cities could not seem to cohabitate in peace. Racial tensions were rampant and it was here where Odjick learned what would soon become his trade and calling: fighting.
By the time the 1990 NHL Entry Draft rolled around, Odjick had completed two years of major junior with the Laval Titan. He made a name for himself as he collected close to 600 penalty minutes during the regular seasons. The Canucks saw they had an enforcer in the making and knew he’d be an important cause to the roster they were shaping. A young team that featured superstars in the making like Linden, Bure, and Petr Nedved, it came as no shock when bench boss Pat Quinn would throw Odjick on the line with each player. Quinn considered him one of his own and Bure, another outsider if you will, became the best of friends of Odjick.
Odjick’s toothless grin is the poster for the quintessential hockey player. The only player that could top it would be Bobby Clarke’s as he’s hoisting the Cup in the mid 70’s.
Odjick played eight seasons with the Canucks and remained a fan favourite through all of them. If you want to see why, just watch the video. The arena became alive each time Odjick whipped off his gloves.
To get old is inevitable. I remember watching that game in it’s entirety when I was a little girl and watching that now makes me feel ancient. Gino has long since retired from the NHL, in fact it’s been almost 13 years since he laced them up for a professional NHL game. However, it never tires me to watch these clips and admire guys like Odjick who night in and night out, defended their teams. Defended their teammates. Made for damn sure that anybody who crossed that red line or blue line would get a shoulder full. I miss the hockey of those days.
Gino Odjick has recently come public with a rare terminal disease. Diagnosed with AL amyloidosis, the disease, in layman’s terms, hardens the arteries and eventually your heart. It’s not for certain how much time Odjick has left. Stories like these make you realize just how much you can take your life for granted. Odjick may have gotten traded to a few more other teams in the latter part of his career but it was Vancouver that took him in as their own son. Gino lives out west to this day and is very active in the native community.
Odjick finished his career with 2567 penalty minutes. He may not have had the flashy stick skills; nor did he have elite scoring capabilities. He may not have won any awards. Odjick is just a man from a native reserve who defied the odds. Let’s hope you continue to defy the odds Gino.
Let’s hear another arena chant your name once more.