On August 4th, an announcement of vital importance was made: Owen Nolan was signed to a Professional Tryout Offer (PTO) with the Vancouver Canucks. This isn’t vital because Nolan is particularly likely to make the team, though Kesler and Raymond’s injuries increase his chances, but because Owen Nolan has a Twitter account. If Owen Nolan makes the team, he would be only the second Vancouver Canuck, after Ryan Kesler, increasing the chances that Kevin Bieksa might be convinced to join.

The Canucks need more Twitter success stories, especially after PITB played an unwitting role in free agent signee Mike Duco deleting his own account. Thus far, Nolan is keeping things pretty innocuous, tweeting about fishing, spending quality time with his son, and being excited to get a chance with the Canucks. Odd as it may seem, this type of ordinary, relaxed tweeting is exactly what is needed to assure skeptical prospective tweeters, like Bieksa, that there is nothing to fear. Twitter is a safe place, Juice. You can trust us.

It’s also nice that Nolan’s keeping things non-controversial on Twitter, because he’s invited a fair share of controversy as a hockey player over the years. You see, Owen Nolan may be modern (young) enough to have a Twitter account, but he’s also seasoned (old) enough to have a storied history with former Canuck fan favorite Gino Odjick.

It all started in a pre-season game on September 15, 1996. After an elbow by Nolan on Odjick, Gino responded by throwing haymakers at the unsuspecting Nolan. There was little else for Nolan to do but to duck for cover as linesmen and teammates came between the two combatants. Odjick, as he was wont to do, struggled out of the linesman’s grip and tried to go after Nolan again.

But the biggest incident came early the next season. On December 4, 1997, in a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks, Odjick was defending against young rookie Marco Sturm. Yes, the same Marco Sturm now signed to the Vancouver Canucks, 14 years later. Sturm had the misfortune of losing an edge directly in front of Odjick, who delightedly took the opportunity to lay a couple solid crosschecks across Sturm’s back. Nolan, already an eight-year veteran in the league, took a very measured, reasonable response.

Or rather, he brutally bodychecked Odjick from behind face first into the boards. While the initial video above shows the speed at which the hit took place, really giving you an opportunity to see how vicious the hit is, the below video is a bit more clear.

Running Odjick might seem like a foolhardy move. Odjick wasn’t exactly renowned for his self-control and forgiving nature, after all. But there’s no record of any retaliatory action. Odjick did receive an elbowing penalty in the Canucks’ next meeting with the Sharks, but we have no way of knowing if Gino was attempting to remove Nolan’s head at the time.

Odjick was traded later that season to the Islanders, and it was as an Islander that he had his final run-in with Nolan, as they visited San Jose on January 29, 2000. The occasion was marked by their first actual fight and, by all accounts, Nolan won handily. He also added 2 assists and was named the game’s first star.

It’s been over a decade since Nolan’s encounters with the Algonquin Assassin. Can he still provide that grit and edge that he played with in his hey day while contributing some scoring from the bottom six? Does he have the speed to keep up with the second line? Or, judging from his Twitter account, has he mellowed out in the twilight of his hockey career?


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  1. Chris
    August 12, 2011

    I always loved the Gino, and as he lives in Vancouver, I imagine it’ll be a little hard for him to pull for his old nemesis. But this is exactly why the Canucks are interested in Nolan: the Canucks got outgooned against a pack of Bruins who could score as well as take cheapshots (exhibit A: Marchand, Brad), and the Blackhawks are clearly gearing up to follow the same template to get past us. That’s exactly what Nolan can bring: a rugged edge but with some undeniable offensive ability. The Canucks need a guy for the Mark Recchi/Bill Guerin/Rod Brind’Amour/Dave Andreychuk role, the elder statesman that leaves it all on the ice, and Nolan’s gotta be starving to get his name on the Mug. With a few injured players leaving holes in the lineup, and Nolan supposedly coming back to North America in great shape, this may have a shot of working.

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  2. James
    August 12, 2011

    If Nolan makes the team, and I hope he does, I am quite sure that Gino will lose no sleep over having him on as a Nuck. Speaking for most of us Nuck fans, should he come to camp in great shape and some old fire it will be exciting to have him. We lack grit and a player who will take care of our stars, so hoping this is part of the equation is worth a try.
    Good luck at camp Owen, give it your all!!!!!!

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