Screen-Shot-2014-06-27-at-9.11.01-AM-780x600Aboriginal hockey star and feared NHL enforcer Gino Odjick revealed late June that a terminal illness might mean he only has weeks to live. Odjick disclosed his condition in an open letter to his fans posted on the official website of the Vancouver Canucks.

“We have shared many great moments together over the years but today I need to share the most difficult news of my life,” wrote Odjick. “About two months ago I was diagnosed with a rare terminal disease called AL amyloidosis. It’s hardening my heart and my doctors aren’t sure how long I have to live. Initially they thought years, but now they think it could be a lot less. I could be down to months or even weeks.”

Odjick, 43, is an Algonquin from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Quebec. He played 605 NHL games with the Canucks, New York Islanders, Philadelphia and Montreal. He retired as a Hab in 2002. Throughout his professional career, Odjick was a hero to countless young Aboriginal hockey players.

“It also means the world to me that my hockey career gave me a chance to open doors for kids in Aboriginal community,” he wrote. “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.”

Odjick’s letter set off a wave of appreciation from his thousands of fans, including those in the Assembly of First Nations.

“He always made time to speak to our youth, to listen to them and to visit with them personally. Much of this work he did quietly because it was not for publicity – it was because he believes in our youth,” wrote AFN spokesperson Ghislain Picard in a release. “While we are tremendously sorry to hear of this news, anyone who knows Gino knows that on and off the ice he is brave, he has heart and he is a fighter. Our thoughts are with you, Gino!”