‘He was a protector’: Kitigan Zibi remembers Gino Odjick

Gino Odjick, also known in professional hockey circles as the “Algonquin Assassin” was laid to rest at a private service in his community of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg on Saturday.

Odjick passed away on Jan. 15 due to complications from Amyloidosis, a rare and fatal disease that affected his heart.

He was diagnosed with the disease in 2014.

Norm Odjick is a cousin and said he was shocked to hear of his passing.

“We didn’t think it’d be that soon, but the way I just look at it is, after the first bout he had with the disease, we had an extra nine years with him and its very fortunate for that,” he said.

Norm Odjick, along with other family members met with media last Friday in the community to share who Gino was.

“It was his toughness and his skill that made him famous however it was his huge heart and generosity that kept him in the public eye,” said Norm.

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Odjick was born and raised in Kitigan Zibi, he was the only boy in a family of six kids.  His younger sister Janique Odjick said they all were very close.

“He was very coddled by the sisters,” she said. “We were extremely protective of him growing up, even though he had his own and he was really good in hockey and he did these different things the sisters, we just kind of coddled him.”

Odjick played 12 seasons in the NHL with four teams – the Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens.

Although Odjick’s nine-year-old grandson, Sebastien Wawatie was too young to watch his “Poppa Gino” play in-person, he’s seen some plays.

“He was a protector of lots of people, whenever the other teams picked on one of his guys, he always attacked,” Sebastien said. What will Sebastien miss most about his poppa? “His kindness and generosity, he was unlike any other person I ever met.”

Janique said her brother, a kid from the “rez,” accomplished so much in his 52 years from meeting the Pope to Bryan Adams.

“Bryan Adams loved Gino and next thing you know, we look and Gino’s on stage singing with Bryan Adams, sitting with George Jones you know jamming out,” she said. “All these things, he went to Japan, China, Switzerland all over the world.

He had the opportunity and he touched so many people, so when you look at that, it kind of makes you go, wow he lived such a full life.”

According to Janique, a celebration of life will be held at a later date in the community and discussions are in the early stages about the creation of a memorial to honour his legacy, not only in Kitigan Zibi, but Vancouver and other communities across the country.

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