When you are a kid, hockey goons are kind of like superheroes or professional wrestlers. You know fighting is a bad thing, but your favorite team's tough guy is fighting the good fight, sticking up for his teammates and everything that you believe is right on the ice (at least at that impressionable age), and as such we are instantly drawn to them.
My favorite tough guy growing up (there were a few of them - far more favorites then than now) was Gino Odjick. Not only was he my on-ice Hulk Hogan, but he was entertaining as heck, even if all the nonsense represented the ugly side of this great game.
For all his bluster and muster, you knew Gino Odjick was a genuine person who truly cared for his teammates and for his fans. It made for a special relationship with an entire generation of Canucks fans that is very rare. And because of that he will forever go down as one of the most popular hockey players in Vancouver history. Our generation of fans will always cherish chanting his name over and over again.
So it saddened me terribly - like so many others in the hockey world - when I learned that mighty Gino has been diagnosed with a rare terminal illness and he may only have weeks to live.
Odjick disclosed his condition in an open letter posted Thursday night on Canucks.com.
“We have shared many great moments together over the years but today I need to share the most difficult news of my life,” Odjick says in the letter addressed to friends, teammates and fans. “About two months ago I was diagnosed with a rare terminal disease called AL amyloidosis. It’s causing abnormal protein to be produced and deposits are being formed on my heart. It’s hardening my heart and my doctors aren’t sure how long I have to live. Initially they thought years, but now they think it could be a lot less. I could be down to months or even weeks.”
Gino has his fare share of challenges in life - alcohol, poverty, racism. He fought all those with the same valiant zest as he fought Dave Manson or Stu Grimson on the ice. He didn't always win, but he gave it everything he had in trying.
So it must be a terrible shock for Gino right now. He is a man who has always known how to fight, but he now battles a fight he knows he can not win.
The outpouring of support from hockey fans on Twitter and hockey colleagues via media has been a heartening and enjoyable read. I don't think I will ever get the chance to meet Gino Odjick in person, but if he by any chance reads this, I want to say "keep fighting, Gino," and more importantly, "Thank you."