'He was a special guy': Musqueam First Nation holds celebration of life for Gino Odjick
Hundreds gathered at the Musqueam Cultural Centre Saturday to honour the life of former Vancouver Canuck Gino Odjick.
"He was our brother," said Musqueam First Nation Chief Wayne Sparrow.
"All across First Nations everybody knows him, so he's just well-known everywhere. Kind-hearted and loveable."
Odjick died last month from a severe heart attack after years of battling a rare, terminal heart illness.
Sparrow says he and Odjick became instant friends when the latter moved to Vancouver in the early 1990s, even living together for some time.
Several people shared their personal stories with CTV News on how Odjick impacted their lives.
"I was probably taking a path that wasn't the greatest," said long-time friend Robert Hughes.
Hughes says he met Odjick in his 20s when he was hanging around a rough crowd. He believes Odjick's influence changed the direction of his life.
"It would have been a different path, definitely, and I don't think I'd be standing here to tell you this story," Hughes said.
He says Odjick would take him to workshops where he'd help Indigenous youth. Hughes credits the eye-opening experience with helping turn his life around.
Pat Alec, an Indigenous man who grew up near Lillooet, says Odjick always made time for his community.
"You know, I got to know him, started calling him 'Uncle Gino,' and he used to come in, play ball hockey and do speeches to the community," said Alec.
Alec said they kept in touch through the years. He even visited Odjick in the hospital when the former Canuck was first diagnosed with the rare disease.
"It's kind of like when you talk to him, you kind of knew him already for years," said Alec.
Some of Odjick's former teammates also attended the event.
"He had that presence and he would walk somewhere and everybody would know 'this is Gino,'" said former teammate Martin Gelinas.
"He was a special guy."
During the ceremony, Odjick's family sat front-row, wearing Canucks jerseys.
"It's nice to see all his friends and family come here to gather and it's really nice to see everyone still loves him," said Bure Odjick, Gino's son.
Gino Odjick was 52-years-old.
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