Former Vancouver Canucks forward and fan favorite Gino Odjick has died at the age of 52.
The team and his sister Dina confirmed the death on Sunday.
“Our hearts are broken. My brother Gino Odjick left us and went to the spirit world,” she wrote on Facebook.
Odjick played from 1990 to 2002 in the NHL, including eight years in Vancouver and two in Montreal.
He also played for the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers, recording 64 goals, 73 assists and 2,567 penalty minutes in 605 regular season games.
Odjick played 44 playoff games with Vancouver and Montreal, scoring four goals and an assist, often eliciting chants of “Gino, Gino” from fans who appreciated his fierce style of play.
“Gino has been a fan favorite from the moment he joined the organization, putting his heart and soul into every change on and off the ice,” said Francesco Aquilini, team president and governor.
Rest in peace 💙 pic.twitter.com/Jg1UDO4pFe
Odjick was a key member of the 1994 Canucks, who lost the Stanley Cup in Game 7 of the Finals against the New York Rangers.
The 2,127 penalty minutes he accumulated as a Canuck is the most in franchise history.
Odjick, of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation near Maniwaki, Que., announced nine years ago that he was suffering from a rare terminal disease affecting his heart, AL (primary) amyloidosis. Doctors said he only had a few weeks left to live.
He then wrote an open letter to his fans, thanking them for their support throughout his career.
“Your ‘Gino, Gino’ cheers were my favorite. I wish I could hear them again. You were amazing,” he wrote.
He also specifically referred to his indigenous heritage.
“It also means a lot to me that my hockey career gave me the opportunity to open doors for children [the] Aboriginal community. I was just a little Indian from Rez. If I could do it, so could they.”
Odjick eventually recovered from his illness after returning to the Ottawa area where doctors began an experimental treatment.
On Sunday, many people posted messages and condolences on social media saying Odjick was a special player and person who gave back to the communities in which he lived.
No one stood up for his teammates in Vancouver like Gino.
A superb team player.
Pat Quinn would always speak highly of Gino and his importance to the team.
Tough day for the Canucks.
Rest in peace Gino Odjick 🙏🏽
Gino was fiercely loyal & would do anything for his own #Canucks team. Canuck hero for over 30 years.
It was an honor to watch him as a young fan in this city & special to bump into him at the rink over the years.
Vancouver will always love Gino 💔
Odjic was selected by the Canucks in the fifth round, 86th overall, of the 1990 NHL draft.