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Former Canuck Gino Odjick battling terminal disease; Fans organize Vancouver rallies

Former Vancouver Canuck Gino Odjick says he has been diagnosed with AL amyloidosis – a "rare terminal disease" – and may have only months or weeks to live.

Odjick made the announcement with a letter to fans, friends, and teammates on Canucks.com on Thursday night. He said he learned of the diagnosis about two months ago, and began fighting after his old coach Pat Quinn was inducted into the Canucks' Ring of Honour on April 13, 2014.

"I went to the hospital because I was short of breath and 48 hours later I received the news," Odjick wrote on Canucks.com. "I've been in the hospital under the supervision of some great doctors ever since. I also have the support of my kids, my sisters, my family and some great friends."

The disease is causing "abnormal protein to be produced and deposits are being formed on my heart," Odjick said, and that is "hardening" his heart.

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UPDATE – In the hours since Odjick's letter was posted on Canucks.com, reports say fans have already begun organizing rallies for Gino.

VanCityBuzz reports the first event is a Rally for Gino, which will be held 11 a.m. on July 11 at Vancouver General Hospital. The second event, Flash Mob for Gino, will be held July 29, 1 p.m. at Vancouver General Hospital.

There is also another Facebook fan group – which has existed since November, 2013 – called Gino Odjick for Canucks Ring of Honour, if you wanted to plead with the Canucks to get #29 in Rogers Arena's wall of fame.

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Odjick – who was born in an Algonquin Native Reserve near Maniwaki, Quebec – played 12 seasons in the NHL, the first seven and a half with the Vancouver Canucks. He also played for the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, and Montreal Canadiens.

Here's a longer excerpt from his letter:

"I'm telling you about this now because news is beginning to leak out and I wanted you to hear it from me. I also want you to know that my spirit is strong even if my body isn't. I'm going to use all of my time to be with my kids and everyone I love.

"I feel very fortunate for my life. During my career I played in some great NHL cities including, Vancouver, Long Island, Philadelphia and Montreal. In my heart, I will always be a Canuck and I have always had a special relationship here with the fans. Your "Gino, Gino" cheers were my favourite. I wish I could hear them again. You have been amazing.

"My teammates became like brothers and am thankful I had the opportunity this past year to re-unite with so many of them. I'll never forget my first NHL game against Chicago and my first goal. It also means the world to me that my hockey career gave me a chance to open doors for kids in Aboriginal community. I was just a little old Indian boy from the Rez. If I could do it, so could they. My hope is that my hockey story helps show kids from home what's possible. I always tell them that education is freedom."

Odjick has asked for privacy, saying he knows "the media will likely want to learn more".

The Canucks have provided three means for fans to show their support to Odjick – by letting them send their Wishes To Gino, by asking fans to donate to the "Gino Strong Fund" if they'd like, or by making "donations to support aboriginal youth education and wellness initiatives" through the Canucks for Kids Fund.

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