Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Former NHL enforcer Gino Odjick has shared an open letter with his friends, teammates and fans, letting them know that he has a rare terminal illness and is fighting for his life.
Odjick's letter was published Thursday on the Vancouver Canucks’ website. In it, the 43-year-old says he was recently diagnosed with AL amyloidosis.
The disease causes the body to produce abnormal protein fibres, which can form deposits and cause serious damage to major organs like the kidneys and heart.
Odjick said he was he was diagnosed a few days after former Canucks coach Pat Quinn was inducted into the Canucks Ring of Honour in April. "I went to the hospital because I was short of breath and 48 hours later I received the news," he said in the letter.
The former NHL star said the disease is causing deposits to form and harden his heart.
"My doctors aren't sure how long I have to live. Initially they thought years, but now they think it could be a lot less. I could be down to months or even weeks," he said.
Odjick played in the NHL from 1990-2002 for the Canucks, the Habs, the Islanders and the Flyers. During his career he recorded 64 goals, 73 assists and 2,567 penalty minutes in 605 regular season games.
Despite playing for several different teams, he said he'll always consider himself a Canuck. During his eight seasons with Vancouver he played 44 playoff games, in which he scored four goals and an assist.
"In my heart, I will always be a Canuck and I have always had a special relationship here with the fans. Your 'Gino, Gino' cheers were my favourite. I wish I could hear them again. You have been amazing," he wrote.
Veteran sports radio broadcaster Bob Marjanovich said he was stunned when he heard the news.
"It's like somebody sucker-punched me," he told CTV Vancouver. "I've known Gino since I started in this business, and I classify him as a friend, and just to hear this news tonight is shocking and saddening."
Marjanovich said Odjick, who grew up on a First Nation reserve just outside the town of Maniwaki, Que., never forgot his roots and always took the time to give back to First Nations communities in B.C.
Odjick also addressed his roots in his letter, noting that if he could make it to the NHL so could other aboriginal children.
"It also means the world to me that my hockey career gave me a chance to open doors for kids in the Aboriginal community," he said. "My hope is that my hockey story helps show kids from home what's possible. I always tell them that education is freedom."
Odjick also thanked his friends and family, and stressed that he wasn't saying farewell yet.
"This isn't goodbye, but I wanted you to know what is happening. I'm going to stay strong and I hope to spend as much time with my kids as possible," he said.
"We have shared many great moments together over the years, but today I need to share news about the biggest fight of my life."
Marjanovich said he expects nothing less of Odjick."Gino is going to fight all the way through, we know that about Gino…that's who he is, that's who he is at his core," he said.
With files from CTV Vancouver and The Associated Press