In a letter that revealed Gino Odjick had a rare terminal disease, the beloved Vancouver Canuck said he wished to once again hear the chants of ‘Gino! Gino!’
On Sunday, his wish was granted.
Odjick, who played the role of enforcer for the Canucks from 1990 to 1998 and was loved by fans and teammates, went public last Thursday through a letter on the team’s website that he had been diagnosed with AL amyloidosis, a rare terminal disease that affects the heart, and doctors thought he may only have months or even weeks to live.
Never one to shy away from a scrap in the hockey arena, or sticking up for his teammates, Odjick is now fighting for his life.
But the hundreds of people from different ages and backgrounds, including many from the First Nations community, who lined up across the street from Vancouver General Hospital on Sunday afternoon wanted to show he is not alone in this fight.
Folks began to gather on the south side of 12th Avenue, across from the Centennial Pavilion, before 1 p.m., with more joining by the minute. They were wearing Canucks jerseys, many with the name ‘Odjick’ and his No. 29 on the back.
They brought signs and flags. One sign read ‘We’re all here for you Gino.’
Spontaneous chants of “Gi-no! Gi-no!” rang out from the street, and grew louder and louder. Passing motorists honked their horns. Some vehicles were decked out with Canucks flags, while one had a message painted on a passenger-side window stating ‘We love Gino.’
“He wanted me to tell all of you this means the world to him,” Odjick’s close friend, Bobby Joe, yelled out to the crowd.
They were waving and chanting. The sound of the drums boomed in the background.
Their hero, the man they came to honour, was watching and waving from the 10th floor of the Centennial Pavilion.
For a brief few minutes, Odjick was brought out of the hospital and into a driveway, accompanied by friends and family.
He was in a wheelchair, but stood and waved his hands into the air to the crowd, drawing a rousing cheer.
“It lifts his spirits up, that’s for sure,” said his son, Joey Odjick.
“He’s always been a fighter, he’s been a fighter all his life. He’s not going to let this get the better of him and he’s going to fight until the end.
“It’s really hard. I’ve always seen my dad as a very strong character who was always in top shape. I’ve always seen him as a very strong man. It’s really hard to see this disease that he’s battling with and sort of see him at his weakest. But he’s staying positive, he’s fighting through it and we’re pretty positive he’s going to make it through.”
Joey called the support for his father “inspiring.”
“It really shows how much of a good person my father was. He gave blood, sweat and tears for this organization, to the Canucks and the city of Vancouver and it’s really nice to see all the support he has.”
At one point, vehicle traffic in both directions along 12th Avenue, between Heather and Oak streets, was blocked by police. People began to spill out onto the street because there were so many in such a confined space.
They all wanted to see the man they had come to revere, to show him they have his back in this fight.
“He was very inspirational,” said a Canucks fan by the name of Douglas.
“And he’s still bringing people together.”