On September 7th in 1970, Wayne Gino Odjick was born in Maniwaki, Quebec. Fighting heavyweights Dave Manson and Stu Grimson in his NHL debut, the Algonquin Assassin earned the game's first star establishing himself as a fan favorite and formidable foe.
Taken 86th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1990 NHL Draft, Odjick played in 605 games over 12 seasons with 4 teams (Canucks 444, Islanders 82, Flyers 30, Canadiens 49) collecting 2567 penalty minutes and 137 points (64G, 73A). Skating alongside best friend and offensive phenom Pavel Bure in 1993-1994 Odjick scored a career high 16 goals. Gino's most famous offensive moment for the Canucks came on a 1991 penalty shot against Calgary Flames netminder Mike Vernon.
From beating a pair of black eyes into Jeff Brown for rumored indiscretions with Kirk McLean's wife to brawling the St. Louis Blues when Glenn Anderson refused to answer the bell for spearing Bure in the eye, Odjick defended his teammates to a fault on and off the ice.
When Mark Messier and Mike Keenan chased Captain Canuck Trevor Linden out of town, Odjick was the first to set the record straight:
"He (Messier) just wants to destroy everything so he gets the power. He didn't break a sweat for the first 10 games and just waited for (former coach) Tom Renney and (former GM) Pat Quinn to get fired. He talks to ownership all the time and he's responsible for Keenan, and he's part of most of the trades. Look what happened with (ex-Canuck and current Islander) Trevor (Linden) when Keenan gave him (hell). Did (Messier) come over to him and say, 'Look, Trev, we're with you?' He didn't say a word. How can you be captain like that? How can the team be together that way? He's not with the players. He's the one who controls everything. I don't blame Keenan for what's happened. Everything he does, he does in the name of winning. But everything that . . . Messier does is for more power. They signed him to help us, but all he wanted was most of us out of there so he could bring in his own people. He just wanted to tear it apart and do it his way."
As he put it, "I never wanted to fight just to see if I was tougher than one guy. I never wanted to be known as the toughest guy in the NHL. I just wanted to be known as a guy that took care of his teammates."
Gino retired in 2002 after sustaining a concussion from an errant puck during a Montreal Canadiens practice. Today he works in Vancouver with the Musqueam Band developing the Musqueam Golf Center.
On June 26, 2014, Gino penned a letter to fans announcing that he was in the "biggest fight of his life" battling a rare heart condition called AL amyloidosis leaving him with only months or weeks to live.
"In my heart, I will always be a Canuck and I have always had a special relationship here with the fans. Your ‘Gino, Gino’ cheers were my favourite. I wish I could hear them again. You have been amazing".Gino heard those cheers again just days later when thousands attended a rally staged outside Vancouver General Hospital, where he was receiving treatment, and again weeks later when he attended the dedication of his childhood rink in Manawaki, Quebec in his honor. Here's hoping #29 wins this battle and hears the cheers for years to come.
That's today in NHL history.
* See also Today In NHL History - Gino Odjick Runs Hasek.
* See also Today In NHL History - Gino Odjick Fights Blues.
* See also Today In NHL History - Odjick's Penalty Shot.