Guest Post: In Praise of Gino Odjick

As you may already know, Gino Odjick is in a fight for his life right now, battling a terminal illness. As he told fans in a letter posted on the Canucks website, he may only have weeks to live. Suffice it to say, this touched a lot of people, because Gino touched a lot of people — something that was abundantly clear as fans rallied outside Vancouver General Hospital this weekend, chanting “Gino! Gino!”

One fan who wanted to say a few words about Odjick on the blog. Gerald Morton is a part-time Zamboni operator, PhD Candidate, occasional lecturer at Vancouver Island University, former hockey target and sporadic blogger at buddydudeguy.blogspot.ca.

If you want to write a guest post for PITB, by all means, reach out to us at passittobulis@gmail.com. We’re always happy to showcase other writers.  

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by Gerald Morton

As a young fan I loved Gino Odjick. As an older fan, I’ve had my fanaticism rounded off by life’s joys and tragedies. I think it’s called perspective. My mood doesn’t rise and fall with the team’s success. My personal relationships don’t suffer from bad games and unfair calls. The emotions still bubble up, but memories and understanding keep them from breaking the surface.

But I still love Gino like I’m a kid; I’m heartbroken he has to leave us so soon.

As a young fan I loved Gino’s fire, unpredictability and joy.  Athletes from our youth anchor us to those simpler times. They are reminders of the passion and power that were so easy to hold before sore backs and reading glasses told us to slow down. These athletes usually fade away. You see an occasional news story about a charity event, or, too often, hard times they’ve encountered.

Eventually, you read their obituaries.

Each time, another thread that ties you to your past is worn away. You still have memories of the joy they brought, but their deaths destroy the wonderful fiction of an eternal present.

The news of Gino’s illness pushes the 1994 magic further into my youthful storage closet of mundane memories I won’t recall. That is especially unfair to a hockey player like Gino Odjick. Gino was an unlikely hero. His story shouldn’t be coupled in my mind with other unremarkable memories of youth.

I know we like to pretend hockey is a perfect meritocracy where issues of social inequality don’t surface. I’ve played enough hockey, and been around the game long enough, to know that a native hockey player faces obstacles and bigotry that most don’t. This isn’t a diatribe about social injustice. It is a simple understanding of Gino Odjick’s truth. If you don’t think a native kid playing hockey gets treated poorly, then you are naive, wilfully ignorant, or have the luxury of blindness that comes with privilege.

Despite the difficult road, and the obstacles overcome, Gino played the game with a joy I don’t see any more. Players celebrate goals using one of their predetermined ‘cellys’. They show flashes of exuberance at designated times. I don’t know any player that brought so much ecstatic energy to every aspect of the game.

Gino knew what his life could have been, what it is for so many kids born on reservations. Gino had a perspective in his youth that it has taken me decades to acquire. He had his fill of tragedies early on. The situations that filled other players with dread were another opportunity to play for Gino. I know fighting is looked upon by many as barbaric and stupid. I’m not, necessarily, talking about that. In every situation Gino let us know this was still a game. He let us know how lucky we were to play our games and watch our heroes.

I miss that.

And I’ll miss you Gino.

Sincerely,

A fan.

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6 comments

  1. PD
    June 30, 2014

    Well said. Thanks for this.

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  2. peanutflower
    June 30, 2014

    Ditto.

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  3. Steve #29
    June 30, 2014

    1994 was one of the most exciting years of my life. The Canucks were in the final and the city was so electric. When I first joined a ball hockey team in Vancouver I needed a number so I chose #29 because I loved Ken Dryden, but I was also heavily inspired by how Gino Odjick was crashing every body that moved. He gave his entire heart and body to the Canucks, so #29 has been my number ever since.

    I hope the Canucks organization does something very special for Gino. He was a huge part of their run to the cup that year, an unsung hero who fought for the Canucks and is now fighting for himself.

    Gino is a hero to me and I’ll always tell great stories of how tough yet how sweet a man GIno is.

    Steve Rose

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  4. T-Canuck
    June 30, 2014

    Ginooo….Ginooo…..Ginooo that electric chant that seemed to cause all fans to become mesmerized by his presence on the ice. Gino is a great hockey player, I even had the opportunity to play against him in a mens beer league game in Langley some years ago, but he is a greater person always taking the time to have a word with a fan sometimes over a beer at pub if you were lucky enough to bump into him there. Always approachable a truly great example that just cause you play a professional sport doesn’t make you a god.
    I love you Gino, thank you so much for all of the great memories your legacy as a true Canuck will never be forgotten.
    God has blessed you and given you his devine strength and determination to handle anything that this world has thrown your way. You are a true inspiration and I admire you for that.
    Peace be with you my friend.

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  5. Nix
    June 30, 2014

    Nice piece, but it’s written as if he were already dead. He’s not dead yet. Chances might not be great, but he’s still alive. Nothing wrong with taking a walk down memory lane with a classic Canuck, but I got a bit uncomfortable reading “he has to leave us so soon.” Not “IF he has to,” but “has to”.

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  6. Doop
    July 1, 2014

    Damn.

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