Gino Odjick was amazing.
During the early '90's, the Canucks were a very talented team. As an experienced player (an old timer - in my 14th and 15th seasons in the league), I often found myself sitting on the bench next to Gino. Big "G" was a tough player and he had a tough job - 370 PIMS during our 92-93 season. But off the ice, Gino was genuine, gentle, fun, and a great teammate. He took a lot of teasing from his buddies over the years, but Gino always deflected this dressing room banter with his huge toothless smile.
That's what I will remember of my friend, his power, his gentle nature and his continuous smile.
There are so many dressing room stories about Gino that I can't and won't tell... Gino was always in the middle of the fun and he built great relationships across our team and across the league. Gino and Pav (Pavel Bure) were always together. Not often at the NHL level do 370 PIM players and 60 Goal players build a long-term friendship like Gino and Pav did; it was awesome to see.
Gino called me on my birthday every year: "Wally, you're getting older; your hair is getting whiter; how are you doing buddy?" We would always have a great catch up about the old days, new adventures, and our families. How could Gino remember my birthday? Why would Gino remember my birthday? Because that was Gino.
We don't always learn powerful life-lessons from an NHL Tough Guy, but I did. Gino taught me that you can play hard and love people too, to grin and bear it when teammates are having fun at your expense, to prioritize people, to build long term friendships.
We had a lot of leaders on those Canuck teams, as the team photo below attests, and Big "G," in his own servant-leadership way, became on of the best. You're on my mind today, Gino. I picture you and I, playing our "6 minutes of ice time" on the 4th line, chatting together on the bench, excited when the team played well.
Good times, great memories... thank you for impacting my life, Gino.