Gino Odjick wasn’t just a favourite of Vancouver Canucks fans, he was beloved by his teammates too.
Odjick, who died at the age of 52 on Sunday, is remembered fondly by Canucks VP of hockey operations Stan Smyl, who played with and coached Gino in the 1990s.
“He was one of the kindest human beings that I have met and played with,” Smyl said in an interview posted to social media by the Canucks.
Odjick made his NHL debut with the Canucks during the 1990-91 season, which was Smyl’s last year of pro hockey. The two were together throughout Odjick’s tenure with the team, with Smyl moving behind the bench as an assistant coach.
The all-time Canucks leader in penalty minutes, Smyl said Odjick understood the role he needed to play. With Smyl on his line, Odjick got in two fights against the Chicago Blackhawks during his NHL debut on November 21, 1990.
“The role that he [had] as a player is one of the hardest roles to play in hockey. He handled it very well,” said Smyl. “It’s a role that you as a player know when you have to be the tough guy and support your teammates, and he was always there for that. He also knew when things weren’t going right on the ice or the team wasn’t playing quite up to their calibre, he could go out and stir it up, and get the players excited, get them involved in the game… He could bring the team into the fight just by being Gino.”
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The 6-foot-3, 224-pound forward quickly established himself as one of the most feared fighters in the game. Odjick went on to play 444 regular season games with the Canucks from 1990 to 1998.
“As a team, you need the Trevor Lindens and the Pavel Bures and the Kirk McLeans and the Jyrki Lummes. But you also need the type of players that were going to be there in the tough times. When it got down to the nitty gritty, nobody intimidated those players because Gino was around.”
The Maniwaki, Quebec native also played for the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, and Montreal Canadiens during his 605-game NHL career.
“He was one of the greatest teammates that I played with,” said Smyl. “He took that role, he took it proud, and he just wanted to win as a Canuck… His heart was in the middle of it all, all the time.”
Vice-President, Hockey Operations, Stan Smyl, on the passing of Gino Odjick. pic.twitter.com/exRYx7UEBB
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) January 16, 2023