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Beloved former Canuck Gino Odjick dies at 52

Gino Odjick, a fan favourite who played eight seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, has died. 

The news broke Sunday afternoon when his sister Dina posted to Facebook.

"Our hearts are broken. My brother Gino Odjick has left us for the spirit world," she wrote.

Soon after, the 52-year-old's death was announced live during the broadcast of the Sunday's Canucks game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"Member of the family, Gino Odjick, we’ve just been informed, has passed away," said announcer John Shorthouse. 

"With heavy hearts we carry on here, with news nobody wanted to hear." 

Canucks chairman and governor Francesco Aquilini issued a statement extending the organization's condolences to Odjick's loved ones. 

“Gino was a fan favourite from the moment he joined the organization, putting his heart and soul into every shift on and off the ice,” Aquilini wrote. 

“He inspired many and embodied what it means to be a Canuck. Personally, he was a close friend and confidant, someone I could lean on for advice and support. He will be deeply missed.”

Stan Smyl, the Vancouver Canucks' vice-president of hockey operations, was asked about the loss of his one-time teammate in an interview posted on social media.

"He was a friend to me, and to you and all his fans here in B.C. and throughout North America," Smyl said.

"He was a very special individual -- on the ice he did what he had to do but off the ice he was one of the kindest human beings that I've met and played with … That was Gino. His heart was in the middle of it all, all the time, not just for his teammates but for his family, friends."

Last year, Odjick's plaque was unveiled in the BC Sports Hall of Fame. As he made his way to the stage, those in attendance began chanting “Gino, Gino, Gino,” a chant that dates back to his first game with the Canucks in 1990.

“When you’re young, you always dream about playing in the NHL and for my dream to come true was just unbelievable,” Odjick said at the 2022 event.

“You’re not supposed to make it when you’re from a small First Nations community.”

He would go on to become one of the most feared players to ever lace up a pair of skates in the National Hockey League. Over eight seasons as a Canuck, Odjick established himself as one of the league's toughest players — amassing over 2,500 penalty minutes in his career.

When playing in the NHL, Odjick wore the number 29 in honour of his father Joseph, a residential school survivor. The number was the one given to Odjick's dad when he was registered at the Spanish Indian Residential School in Ontario, according to the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Away from the ice, Odjick has always been a gentle giant who uses his platform to inspire generations of Indigenous youth to pursue education.

In 2014, Odjick was diagnosed with AL amyloidosis, a rare terminal illness that causes a gelatin-like protein to be deposited in the heart muscle, affecting the organ's ability to expand and contract.

Experts say the heart condition Odjick suffered from is extremely rare, has no known cause and is almost always fatal. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ben Miljure and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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