APTN National News
MANIWAKI — Gino Odjick surprised fans and supporters Saturday by appearing at a ceremony to rename the local arena after him.
Loud cheers and a traditional honour song greeted the former NHL enforcer as he was driven into the building in his own pickup truck.
“This is a special day. Obviously having an arena named after you is not something that happens every day so I’m really happy and I’d like to thank everybody. Thank you,” Odjick told the packed arena, many of whom wore red T-shirts with the slogan “GinoStrong” written on them.
The town of Maniwaki announced just days ago that it would rename the facility the Centre Sportif Gino-Odjick (Gino Odjick Sports Centre). Maniwaki is adjacent to Odjick’s home community, Kitigan Zibi First Nation.
Odjick smiled as he shared fond memories of playing atom and peewee hockey in this same arena.
“We played a lot of good hockey and a lot of good tournaments and had all sorts of fun. It’s so special to be here,” he said.
Although he was thin and appeared weakened from a rare terminal heart ailment that doctors discovered in April, Odjick walked to the stage by himself and often stood when people spoke of his many accomplishments.
Kitigan Zibi Chief Gilbert Whiteduck called Odjick an inspiration.
“Gino allowed us to live our dreams through him as he played in the NHL,” said Whiteduck.
There was widespread shock when Odjick announced iin June that because of his heart condition he may have just weeks to live. Odjick was being treated in a Vancouver hospital but recently moved to a facility in Ottawa, before coming home to Kitigan Zibi just days ago.
Odjick is staying with family there and being treated by health officials employed by the First Nation, according to Whiteduck.
First drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 1990, Odjick went on to play for the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens before retiring from the NHL in 2002.