Newspapers in Canada this week have been reporting that Gino Odjick — the former left-winger for the Canucks, Islanders, Flyers and Canadiens — spent the past several days in the psychiatric unit of a hospital in Quebec. He's apparently well enough to retweet well-wishers' regards ("Sending love to The Chief") but that isn't saying a great deal. He has been hurting for a while, making his father's death last week all the harder to handle.
Odjick appeared in Pavel Bure's retirement ceremony in Vancouver last month, a night his business manager, Kumi Kumura, described as a rough one.
From the Vancouver Sun:
"He was way gone at Pavel's thing," Kimura said. "We were walking on eggshells."
Odjick was admitted to the psychiatric unit at UBC Hospital in early September, but was released after only a few days.
"We wanted him in the hospital until two or three days before Pavel's event so he would be calm, be rested and get on the regular meds that control his brain," Kimura said. "Our goal was to get him to Pavel's retirement. 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."
Never one to shy from applying knuckles to nostrils, Odjick ranks 17th in NHL career penalty minutes, with 2,567. No other player has racked up that total in fewer than 688 games; Odjick needed only 605. In his 12-year career, he scored all of 64 goals. Mostly his highlight reels look like the night he took on multiple St. Louis Blues players sans sweater:
Since his career ended in 2002, Odjick told Marc De Foy, he has spent nearly three years hospitalized for problems he blames on head trauma:
Two years ago, I spoke with Odjick for my feature on the toll that hockey brawls have taken on longtime enforcer Chris Nilan. Odjick confessed then to struggling with post-traumatic symptoms.
"When you eat headshots, it's hard on the brain," he said at the time.
Odjick didn't seem to be doing too badly when I reached him in the hospital late Monday evening.
"I'm here because of my concussion problems," he confided. "Since I retired from hockey in 2002, I've spent 32 months in the hospital."
Really? That's nearly three years.
People who know and love Gino know he's having cognitive problems. That much was clear to fans who saw his guest appearance last week on a national hockey TV show.
One website reported that Odjick was catatonic, as people with his condition usually are.
I've not found the clip referenced there (commenters ...?) but I did find this update from De Foy saying that Odjick's out and has headed to the woods for a rest with his kids. (At least, that's the gist I get from Google's translation from the French.) For all the pixels spilled to detail the NHL's concussions epidemic, the bulk of the fallout must be borne by guys like Odjick, who is 43 years old and suffering in plain sight, explaining ominously that eating headshots is hard on the brain.
Photo credit of Odjick in 1996: Getty