In just under two weeks, one of the most beloved names in Vancouver Canucks history will be officially inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Gino Odjick is among the hall of fame athletes of 2021 and 2020 who will be honoured at an induction gala at the Vancouver Convention Centre on June 9.
“It feels awesome. My family is really proud and I am really proud to be going in. I never thought I’d be part of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame,” Odjick told Global News Morning BC.
Over his 12-year NHL career, Odjick played 605 games for the Canucks, the New York Islanders, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Montreal Canadians.
While he never scored more than 16 goals in a season with the Canucks, he remains the team’s all-time leader in penalty minutes and won the hearts of fans with his toughness and work ethic.
“(Former coach) Pat Quinn, when I got here, he said, ‘I don’t want a goon. I want somebody who can play. I don’t want you just coming off the bench to fight. You have to contribute. You have to be part of the leadership group and I’m going to give you an opportunity every night to do something special’,” he said.
“And true to his word that’s what he did and I grew as a player. And from the first day that I walked in as a 20-year-old and when I left as a 32-year-old I was still getting better as a player.”
Odjick, who hails originally from the small Algonquin reserve of Kitigan Zibi, Que., is known as much for his on-ice play as his activities off the ice, particularly inspiring First Nations communities. He credited scout Ron Delorme and Quinn with putting him on that path, inspiring him to hold hockey schools and events in Indigenous communities.
“Pat Quinn encouraged me, always gave me pictures and T-shirts and jerseys to go visit First Nations communities, so right from the start I really got involved and I really liked doing it,” he said.
“It’s fun to go to schools and talk to the youth and tell them how important it is to get an education. Sports is fine, but like myself I was done at 32 years old and you have a whole life to live.”
In 2014, Odjick was diagnosed with rare and potentially terminal heart disease AL amyloidosis, a condition that causes abnormal protein to be produced and deposited on the heart.
At the time, he told teammates and fans in a letter that he could be “down to months or even weeks,” an announcement that prompted a massive outpouring of support. But as he did every night on the ice, Odjick battled. He underwent an experimental treatment in Ottawa, and over the course of several years the condition went into remission.
Speaking Saturday he said he feels “great,” and that beyond quarterly blood tests his life has gotten back on track.
“I got a second lease on life and I really appreciate it, and I live life to the fullest,” he said. “But I also respect how fragile life is, you can be here one day and gone the next, so you have to really enjoy and respect life.”
Odjick will be among two dozen B.C. athletes, coaches and media members honoured at the June 9 event, including former teammate and 1994 Stanley Cup run alumni, goalie Kirk Maclean.