National News

Rally held for terminally ill hockey player

By Steven Chua, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - A former Vancouver Canuck diagnosed with a terminal illness received a heartfelt and vocal show of support from dozens of people on Sunday.

They held a rally for Gino Odjick outside the Vancouver hospital where the former NHL enforcer is being treated.

Odjick has been diagnosed with a rare condition that interferes with the heart's ability to expand and contract and he said last week doctors told him he may only have weeks to live.

The crowd repeatedly chanted Odjick's first name as cars passed by honking their support.

"Gino chants are pretty much for all the hard work and blood, sweat and tears he put on the ice," said Joey Odjick, Odjick's son.

"It's very touching," said the younger Odjick. "It definitely lifts up his spirits and shows him everyone still cares for him."

"He's always been a player who stood up for his teammates — if anybody took a run at any of the players, Gino was there," Odjick's son said.

Many of those at the rally were from Canada's First Nations community and they said Odjick, who is aboriginal himself, gave them something to aspire to.

Priscilla Williams said she met Odjick when he once visited the reserve she lived on and was impressed by his down-to-earth personality.

Stanley Jones said those from First Nations were looked down upon when he was growing up, but Odjick's success in the NHL gave him something to be proud of.

"He was one of us," said Jones. "He showed us what a person with heart and dedication can do no matter insurmountable odds."

"The man's done a lot to make me feel better about being First Nations," he said.

During Sunday's rally, Odjick came to the hospital's entrance in a wheelchair to thank his fans, and was greeted by a roar of cheers.

Odjick, 43, played in the NHL from 1990 to 2002, including eight years in Vancouver and two in Montreal.

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