The Maniwaki Mauler: Gino Odjick

Photo: Ken Levine  /Allsport
Photo: Ken Levine /Allsport

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”. Gino-Odjick-Canucks-e1326866926668

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.

gino-odjick

Utica Comets Start To Take Form

The brand new AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, the Utica Comets, are starting to have their roster take shape.

UticaCometsThe President of the team, former NHL goaltender Robert Esche, announced last week that they had signed right winger David Pacan. Pacan spent last season with the San Antonio Rampage and the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones. Pacan notched 52 points in 57 games with the Cyclones. A native of Ottawa, Ontario, and a CJHL alumni, I’m sure he’s glad to be a bit closer to home this season.

Another impressive signing saw 2011 Memorial Cup champion goaltender, Mathieu Corbeil climb aboard. As a member of the Saint John Sea Dogs, Corbeil lead the way to a QMJHL championship in 2012. Corbeil spent last year in the Central Hockey League with the Missouri Mavericks.

(John Negrin. wiki.)
(John Negrin. wiki.)

On defence the Comets picked up John Negrin. Negrin spent last season between the Lake Erie Monsters and Chicago Wolves. Negrin has spent time with 4 AHL teams and has played in 3 NHL games with the Calgary Flames. He brings plenty of experience to this newly formed club. Another notable defenceman signed to the 2013-2014 is former London Knight, Sascha Guimond.

The Utica Comets franchise was formerly the affiliate for the St. Louis Blues in the form of the Peoria Rivermen. Former NHLer Travis Green is set to head man the team for the upcoming season. The Comets will be playing out of the North Division which feature Canadian teams, the Toronto Marlies and Hamilton Bulldogs. The Lake Erie Monsters and Rochester Americans round out the strong division.

The full American Hockey League schedule will be available sometime in August. Hockey season is just around the corner.

Vancouver Canucks To Hire Tortorella Today

The exchange of coaches is now complete.

(Photo: Robert Kowal. flckr.)
(Photo: Robert Kowal. flckr.)

John Tortorella is expected to be sworn in as coach today in a Vancouver press conference at 4pm. Lots of speculation had been swimming the past couple weeks on who would be head manning the team since Vigneault was let go.

This could be fun my friends. Can you imagine fiery Tortorella lashing out at the Canadian media? Luongo might even want to continue to play there! Torts is a take no nosense, old school style coach who I think will strive with a veteran team in Vancouver.

Torts does indeed have a championship ring which he earned with Tampa Bay in 2004. Maybe this is what Vancouver needs to keep their winning ways in the post season. Well, that obviously remains to be seen but it will be damn fun to watch in the meantime.