Gino Odjick was like most sticks out there in the National Hockey League of his day. Ferocious on the ice when defending his teammates and smooth as silk in life. And how fun it could be!
He became your friend for life when he found you authentic and shared the same values.
Donald Audette was his teammate at the Laval Titan for just a year, but the friendship forged between them became unbreakable.
Audette knew that Odjick was not destined to grow old. He was aware that he could die at any moment. However, he was shocked when he heard the news on Sunday.
He wrote on his Facebook page that he was losing his second big brother, whose brother Richard had a career in investing.
Algonquin and proud of it
In his first junior season, Odjick lived in a boarding house next to the Audette residence. Just 18 years old, he didn’t say a word louder than the other.
In the morning he went to Audette’s for coffee and read the newspaper.
“He didn’t speak at first, he was a bit embarrassed,” recalls Audette.
“You also have to say that he came from a different culture. »
Odjick was proud of his Algonquin roots. He was a hero in his hometown of Maniwaki and in the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Reservation.
During her second season at Laval, Audette went to Rochester where the Buffalo Sabers Farm Club is based in the American League.
Fishing and hockey in the summer
In the summer, the two could meet at a fishing lake not far from Maniwaki, or at an ice rink, in a summer hockey league, in Saint-Jérôme or Deux-Montagnes.
Then it was Gino’s turn to break into the professional ranks. His time in the minor leagues was shorter than that of his friend Donald.
After just 17 games with the Milwaukee Admirals, then part of the International League, he was recalled by the Vancouver Canucks, who already had tough guys like Quebecers Ron Stern and Sergio Momesso, Garth Butcher and Jim Agnew in their roster.
No Rolex or Ferrari
The following year he became the official protector of Pavel Bure, with whom he was also close friends. He even named one of his sons by the surname of the one who was nicknamed “Russian Missile”.
He became an idol for Canucks fans, but his popularity didn’t change him.
“Gino was an example of simplicity and honesty,” says Audette.
“He didn’t need designer clothes, a Rolex watch or a Ferrari to be happy. He had human values. He always took care of his children.
“Those who prioritized good values were on their side. Otherwise it wasn’t you. »
Indeed, Odjick was not a fashion card. He has already turned up on a Canadian charter flight wearing tan corduroy pants (velvet), a very simple sports jacket and a turtleneck.
André Savard, who was general manager, made no case of it.
Gino was Gino.
“It’s not that he didn’t have the means to do it,” Audette continues.
“But he wasn’t the type to buy suits for $500 or more back then.
“I don’t know how he would react when he sees the price that today’s players pay for a suit. »
On the ice, Odjick was more than just a fighter to Audette.
“He had a thankless job,” Audette continues.
“When his team was asleep, he found a way to wake them up. »
Audette concludes that many people underestimated Odjick’s intellectual abilities.
“But they let them believe what they wanted,” he adds.
“He didn’t try to dissuade those who saw him as Nono. He made her think so. But that was not the case.
“I don’t know how long he went to school. He may not have had much academic training, but he learned many things on his own. He was informed. He could talk about politics and many other things. »
Difficult last few years
Medicine condemned Gino Odjick when he was diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis in 2014. It was only to last a few months, but an experimental treatment combining chemotherapy and drugs allowed him to extend his life.
Amyloidosis is a rare disease in which an abnormal protein builds up in the heart (Source: University of Ottawa Heart Institute).
The heart becomes stiffer and its walls thicker than normal. The heart no longer fills properly and no longer expels enough blood.
Still, Odjick’s chances of survival remained questionable, despite the treatments he received. The medication he was taking had made him bloated.
Those around him knew his heart could break at any moment.
The irretrievable happened while he was in a Vancouver clinic undergoing leg surgery. He had spoken to his sister Dina just before their appointment and everything seemed normal.
Buried in Maniwaki
A first celebration of his life will be held in his memory in Vancouver, followed by a second in privacy in Maniwaki, where he will be buried.
Like many other players of his type, Odjick didn’t have it easy after his hockey career.
He had to be treated for physical and mental problems.
His friends, like Donald Audette, supported him to the end. You will never forget the heart person Odjick.