My Gino Odjick story

Gino Odjick

When I heard of the health situation of Gino Odjick I felt very sad for him and his family. Although we never played together on the same team, I always felt we had a unique bond.

As I grew up watching the NHL, Gino was a guy that stood out. Here was this big guy, who was very tough and loved to score goals. I remember many of his crazy celebrations.
In 1997-1998, the winds of change blew through the Canucks organization. Pat Quinn was moving on and Tom Renney had been replaced by Mike Keenan. Mike was also in charge of making the moves, it seemed to me, and many of the longer tenured Canucks players were traded. Trevor Linden, Mike Sillinger, Dave Babych, Martin Gelinas, Jyrki Lumme and Kirk McLean were all dealt that season.

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Gino Odjick was also on the list of “to be traded”.

At this point I was playing for the New York Islanders. We had just played in Edmonton against the Oilers — my very first game at home in front of family and friends. It was a great experience. The next morning we were on the plane heading to Vancouver to play the Canucks the following day. I was on cloud nine.

The Phone Call

Mike Milbury

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We get to our hotel in Vancouver that afternoon. My roommate, veteran Claude Lapointe, and I were just about to settle in for a little nap. As we talked about who will get traded from our team or others around the league, the hotel room phone rings. As the rookie, I answered it (this is before cell phones).


“Is this Struds?”

“Yes it is.”

“Struds, Mike Milbury (then-G.M. of the Islanders) here. I just wanted to let you know you have been traded to the Vancouver Canucks. Thanks for everything, good luck. A representative of the Canucks will be calling you shortly. Bye”

I hung up and the look on my face must have been easy to read.

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My roommate Lapointe asked what just happened so I filled him in. He thought it was just someone messing with me. That it was just too convenient that we were in Van and I was just traded here. He said to relax that it was just a hoax.

Two seconds later the phone rang again.


“Is this Jason Strudwick?”

“Yes it is.”

“Hi Jason. Mike Keenan calling. We are very happy to have traded for you today. Be downstairs in the lobby in five minutes. A Canucks representative will be there to take you to the rink for a press conference and then on to your new hotel. You will probably play tomorrow against the Islanders. Welcome and see you tomorrow.”

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Needless to say my head was spinning as I repacked my stuff. I hugged my roomy good-bye and headed down stairs. I am not going to lie: I was very happy to be leaving the Islanders organization and heading west to Vancouver, but I had no idea what this could mean for my career.

The Press Conference


Gino did his press conference first. As I waited outside, I figured he would be upset to be leaving Vancouver. He was a fan favourite and well loved by the city.

Gino walked out and I walked in. The first question I got was “Gino just said he isn’t that upset about being traded but he is upset about being traded for someone he doesn’t even know. What do you say to that?”

That caught me off guard.

As I tried to digest what he said, I answered the question in the most polite way I could. To be honest I don’t remember what I said, but I remember thinking, ‘just don’t say much’.

The press conference wrapped up and before I knew it, I was in a new hotel as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

I woke up the next morning and headed to the rink. I was going to meet my new teammates but I couldn’t get what Gino said out of my head. I have pride, and decided right then I was going to fight him! He was a very tough guy so it’s probably not the best choice, but my pride made me do it.

The game started and I went looking for Gino. He brushed me off a couple of times and then finally said yes. We started, and he was holding back. I was trying to hit him and he just waited. Just as I figured out he was letting me wear myself out, he got busy! I took a couple on the head and then we went down. Not a legendary fight, but I felt better.

After the game the press asked me why I wanted to fight Gino. I said, “He didn’t know who I was so I thought I would introduce myself!” That is a line I am still proud of.

About a year later I ran in Gino, and we had a chat. He apologized for what he said — what a guy! He said he was upset at the time and his emotions got the better of him. It was a unique moment that we shared. A moment that for me says a lot about the man that is loved by Vancouver and so many NHL fans.

Gino, all the best buddy.

  • 68Merc

    Awesome story – Love hearing stuff like this from guys who played in the league. Great line Struds! I live in Victoria and dislike the Canucks more now than when I first moved here from Edmonton, but I have to admit Gino’s the type of guy you just can’t help liking.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I remember Odjick playing but I don’t recall anyone named Strudwick in the NHL. Great story, though.

    Just kidding, I don’t want to have to throw down with you at Olive Garden or something.

  • ubermiguel

    Great story. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, you need to write a book with all these stories. It’ll be like Ken Dryden’s “The Game” except from the other end of the standings (actually the Rangers were ok during your time there). Call it “The Game from the Journyman’s Point of View”.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Gino is an absolute hero where I am from. Ive never, ever heard one bad word spoke of him.

    The one Canuck I cheered for. The one Canuck which drew me to watching games. Ok-ok Bure (gino’s best bud) was phenomenal.

    Thx for the write up. Nice lil’read

  • BlazingSaitls

    I grew up in Vancouver, was disappointed Gino had been traded, and bought a ticket to that game to cheer for him. Remember being impressed that the new guy fought him – at center ice as I recall. Been a fan of Jason’s since then. Thanks for telling the story.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Struds, I wish you would write more. You played in the show and have some great stories and insight. I’m tired of reading about stats from one of the bloggers.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Strudwick is the most listenable of the CFRN lineup, too. He tells stories like a human being would tell them. The other pencil necks all strive to prove they’re the smartest guy in the room. And THEN there are the insufferable stats geeks.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      ^this! as true a statement as could be said about Struds and most of the other TSN 1260 radio guys (except for Lowetide, the voice of the average guy).

  • Thanks for the insight, interesting to hear the background stuff. And in Gino’s defense, you *were* a rookie with all of 18 NHL games to that point…!

    But I would be remiss as a guy carrying this user name if I didn’t point out that Lumme was never dealt by the Canucks, let alone that season. He played out the rest of 1997-98, became a UFA at the end of the year and signed with Phoenix.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    You should’ve walked down with shampoo in your hair and said “next time give me 10”.

    Great story though. Still remember you talking about it on gregors show. Gives a good laugh on a very crappy situation.

  • Joy S. Lee

    Obviously, everyone loved Odjick. Seemingly for similar reasons that they love you, Jason Strudwick… down-to-earth goes a long way in most fans’ minds, within a sports world full of enormous egos. There’s a lot to be said for that. A lot! And it all speaks to the real person independent of the persona.

    Most average joe’s would far rather sit down and chat with someone they can relate to, than someone who wants to brag because they can only see from their own limited perspective of how great, adored, or wealthy they are.