I wasn’t in Vancouver in the 1990’s. I was in a lot of different places, but I do remember Gino Odjick with the Canucks. As an ‘old school’ hockey guy who grew up around a time when enforcers were as much a part of the game as goal scorers, I just remember Gino ranking right up there near the top of the overall scary list.
You could describe many of the heavyweights as “mad men” back then because as their teammates would attest, you’d have to be a little bit crazy to do the job. And yet remarkably across the board, a great majority of these players, some fans referred to them as policemen, others as goons, were some of the biggest sweethearts and most involved as anyone off the ice.
I didn’t know about any of that stuff in Gino’s case back then, I just knew from afar that he was one of the fighters who was frightening as hell. As in, he might beat the crap out of our guy. Every team had at least one enforcer, obviously some bigger, badder and more relentless than others. Again, Gino made that list.
He pounded guys, took on all takers, never backed down, and always seemed to put on a bit of a show for the Canucks home folks.
If you’re under twenty or twenty-five years of age, you might have a hard time grasping some of what went on. It was a very different world. It was even crazier in the 1970’s, but still wild enough when Odjick came along to the Canucks in 1990.
Hockeyfights.com refers to Odjick’s quote in the 2016 documentary called “Ice Guardians”, about the extremely tough and sometimes thankless job of being an enforcer.
“It’s a hard way to earn an easy living,” Odjick said.
Odjick’s career high in penalty minutes came in 1996-’97 when he posted 371. The entire Canucks team last season finished with about 600.
He had 370 PIM’s in 1992-’93, his next highest total, and finished his career with 2,567 minutes, 17th all time in NHL history.
While Marty McSorley protected “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky, Odjick protected high flying Canucks scorer Pavel Bure among others. He dropped the gloves 127 times for Vancouver.
Stan Smyl, Odjick’s former teammate and current Canucks Vice President of Hockey Operations said it best to NHL.com.
“The role he was as a player is one of the hardest roles in hockey, and he handled it very well,” Smyl said. “You have to be the tough guy and support your teammates, and he was always there for that, and he also knew when things weren’t going right on the ice or the team wasn’t playing quite up to their caliber that he can go out and stir it up and get the players excited, get them involved in a game, and I guess the best way of saying it, he could bring the team into a fight just by being Gino.”
He had the name, he had the look, he had the relentlessness.
With Gino having passed away at the age of 52, our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and fans.