Gino Odjick’s Fight with Mental Illness

It’s been 12 years since Canucks fan favourite Gino Odjick played in the NHL. He was a left-winger known for fighting, not goal-scoring (he scored just 64 goals in his 12 NHL seasons). Odjick spent 2567 minutes in the penalty box, putting him in the 17th spot for career penalty minutes.

Today, Odjick’s fight is with mental illness. He says his condition is linked to the pounding he took on the ice. “When you eat headshots, it’s hard on the brain,” says Odjick. He’s spent nearly three years in hospitals across the country since retiring in 2002. He’s only 43 years old.

Odjick’s appearance at Pavel Bure’s jersey retirement ceremony last November drew attention to his current condition.

Odjick was “way gone at Pavel’s thing,” according to business manager Kumi Kimura. “He got there, but he walked out in sneakers and a hat when he should be wearing a suit. He knows better. That just wasn’t him.”

But a public appearance last week suggests that Odjick is finding ways to cope with his health issues. On Tuesday, Odjick publicly acknowledged his mental illness at a BC Children’s Hospital symposium on sports-related concussions. The event was moderated by Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden, a powerful advocate for concussion awareness.

At the symposium, Odjick told the audience how he wasn’t able to find his way to the rink in his last NHL season. “I couldn’t remember what time it was, what I was supposed to be doing. It was just one turn to the right, one turn to the left to get to the rink, but I got lost just going there.”

Neuroscientists were shocked to hear Odjick say he was addicted to hitting. “It made me feel alive, to get hit. It showed that I was involved, sticking up for my teammates. It was something I could never understand myself. I felt the need to get hit.”

The concussion symposium was organized by Dr. Shelina Babul of BC Children’s Hospital. Dr. Babul has developed the Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) that instructs players, parents, and coaches on what to do if an athlete has suffered a concussion. The tool will be released in March.

The HEADWays Concussion App

Slater Vecchio recently partnered with VGH and the UBC Hospital Foundation to fund the development of a mobile app for concussion care.

The HEADWays Concussion Recovery app is a self-management tool for individuals who have suffered a concussion. It’s the only self-management app written and created by doctors who specialize in concussion care.

Related Topics

Recent Stories
Picture of Nicholas Tsoi
Nicholas Tsoi
Nicholas Tsoi joined Slater Vecchio in August 2011. Nicholas has represented clients in the Provincial and Supreme Courts of British Columbia and the British Columbia Court of Appeal.