June 27, 2014 12:20 pm
Updated: June 27, 2014 12:28 pm

Former Canuck Gino Odjick diagnosed with terminal disease

Canucks legend Gino Odjick has been diagnosed with a rare terminal heart disease.

Odjick’s letter to teammates and fans distributed by the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night says he was diagnosed with AL amyloidosis, a condition that causes abnormal protein to be produced and deposited on the heart.

READ MORE: Gino Odjick’s rare disease: What is AL amyloidosis?

“It’s hardening my heart and my doctors aren’t sure how long I have to live. Initially they thought years, but now they think it could be a lot less. I could be down to months or even weeks,” said Odjick in the letter.

WATCH: Vancouver Canucks’ tribute to Odjick

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Odjick says he was diagnosed days after Pat Quinn’s ring of honour night in April and has been in the hospital under the supervision of doctors ever since.

Forty-three-year-old Quebec native played for a number of NHL teams, including the Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers. Even after being traded to the New York Islanders in 1998, Odjick continued to talk about the special relationship he had with the people of Vancouver.

READ MORE: Gino Odjick fans planning rallys in Vancouver – How you can help

WATCH: Odjick fondly remembered in Vancouver

I feel very fortunate for the support I’ve received over the years. During my career I played in some great NHL cities including, Vancouver, Long Island, Philadelphia and Montreal. In my heart, I will always be a Canuck and I have always had a special relationship here with the fans, said Odjick in the letter.

While with the Canucks, Odjick also devoted himself to social causes. In 1995, he walked 800 kilometres from Calgary to Vancouver, raising awareness about drug and alcohol abuse to youth in over 20 First Nations communities.

“When he first talked about it, I was a little skeptical,” said Canucks head coach Pat Quinn at the time. “But it was something he had to do, and he has proven it was the right thing to do.”

WATCH: Odjick’s “Spritual Journey of Healing”

Amyloidosis Foundation says AL amyloidosis is a rare disease with only 1200 to 3200 new cases reported each year in the United States.

The clinical course of AL amyloidosis is usually associated with rapid disease progression and involvement of multiple organ systems.

The Vancouver Canucks have set up a special page where fans can leave messages of support for Odjick.

- With files from Justin McElroy

The full text of the letter:

Dear friends, teammates, and fans,

We have shared many great moments together over the years, but today I need to share news about the biggest fight of my life.

About two months ago I was diagnosed with a rare terminal disease called AL amyloidosis. It’s causing abnormal protein to be produced and deposits are being formed on my heart. It’s hardening my heart and my doctors aren’t sure how long I have to live. Initially they thought years, but now they think it could be a lot less. I could be down to months or even weeks.

I began fighting this disease a few days after Pat Quinn’s ring of honour night. I went to the hospital because I was short of breath and 48 hours later I received the news. I’ve been in the hospital under the supervision of some great doctors ever since. I also have the support of my kids, my sisters, my family and some great friends.

I’m telling you about this now because news is beginning to leak out and I wanted you to hear it from me. I also want you to know that my spirit is strong even if my body isn’t. I’m going to use all of my time to be with my kids and everyone I love.

I feel very fortunate for my life. During my career I played in some great NHL cities including, Vancouver, Long Island, Philadelphia and Montreal. In my heart, I will always be a Canuck and I have always had a special relationship here with the fans. Your “Gino, Gino” cheers were my favourite. I wish I could hear them again. You have been amazing.

My teammates became like brothers and am thankful I had the opportunity this past year to re-unite with so many of them. I’ll never forget my first NHL game against Chicago and my first goal. It also means the world to me that my hockey career gave me a chance to open doors for kids in Aboriginal community. I was just a little old Indian boy from the Rez.  If I could do it, so could they. My hope is that my hockey story helps show kids from home what’s possible. I always tell them that education is freedom.

I also made some great friends through hockey and away from the ice as well. Life-long friends who have been with me as I lived out my dream on the ice. It made the journey that much more special and cherished.

This isn’t goodbye, but I wanted you to know what is happening. I’m going to stay strong and I hope to spend as much time with my kids as possible.

I understand the media will likely want to learn more, but I hope you can respect my request for privacy as I focus my time on my children and family.

- Gino

© Shaw Media, 2014

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