Jordin Tootoo is an Inuk Canadian hockey player who is playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the National Hockey League (NHL). In 2003, when he played for the Nashville Predators, Tootoo became the first Inuk player in NHL. The most important thing about Jordin, which distinguishes him from others, is that along with all the difficulties and challenges, Tootoo has achieved many successes in hockey and his personal life. The unstoppable man on the ice, who grew up in Nunavut, is now a role model to show the successful way to all Inuit youth. In this research paper, I will like to look at the background of Jordin Tootoo’s life, the difficulties and challenges on his way, and the most important reason for his success.
Jordin John Kudluk Tootoo was born on February 2nd,1983 in Churchill Manitoba. Jordin’s mother, Rose is of Ukrainian descent, while his father Barney is an Inuk from Nunavut (Jordin`s Story). Jordin grew up in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, where the children learned how they should be able to fish, hunt, and camp to survive (Tootoo and Brunt 7). But, living in Rankin Inlet and alongside the Williamson lake had an advantage for Jordin. The Williamson lake, where the average temperature is minus 40 degrees in winter, is the place that Jordin learned and improved his rough and high energy style in hockey (Tootoo and Brunt 17). While the other kids in Nunavut thought that there was no chance for them to play hockey in any valid leagues, Jordin had a dream which was playing hockey in the NHL (Tootoo and Brunt 24). Tootoo wanted to realize his dream, so he worked incredibly hard and used any opportunity to play hockey even in harsh environmental conditions or with older children who were stronger and better than him in hockey. Eventually, hockey gives him an opportunity to escape from Rankin Inlet. When Jordin was 13, he left his hometown and moved to Alberta to play on the Spruce Grove Broncos in the AAA Bantam league (Wharnsby). After that, he achieved significant success in hockey such as a silver medal along with Canada`s team at the 2003 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. On October 9 of the same year, Jordin achieved his childhood dream. He became the first Inuk to play in the NHL when he played for the Nashville Predators against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Since 2011, Jordin has played for some top and popular teams like Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, and Chicago Blackhawks (Jordin`s Story). Along with all these sports successes, Jordin has achieved many successes in his personal life, which have many influenced on the lives of all Inuit youth. Because he was almost an alcoholic, one of the remarkable things that Jordin did in his personal life was the quitting of alcohol. In fact, on December 18, 2010, Jordin made the best decision of his life when he checked himself into rehab for alcohol addiction at NHL Players’ Association Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (Hockey Night). With this decision, Tootoo became more popular as a role model and encourages those who look up to him to follow his way to leave alcohol addiction. All these successes have lead Jordan Tootoo to be a symbol of the culture, which gives him the power and opportunity to succeed and for all people an inspiration, which is never giving up against the difficulties of the life.
Alongside Jordin`s success, he has faced many difficulties. As an Inuk kid who lived in Nunavut, Jordin grew up in the isolated community where children lived in a tough situation, and there was not any chance for them to achieve their goals. Tootoo and other Kids grew up with family problems in this kind of community which exposed them to drugs, alcohol, and suicide (Mansbridge one on one). The situation for children in Rankin Inlet was so complicated that Jordin and the other kids didn’t even want to go home on weekends when their parents drank alcohol (Tootoo and Brunt 18). As a young and professional hockey player, and shortly after leaving the Rankin Inlet, Tootoo faced other problems that caused to call himself a “man-whore”. He explains that during that time, he thought the women could help him to remove his loneliness. But that was not his only problem at this stage, Tootoo had experienced racism many times when he played in the AHL (American Hockey League). Tootoo states that he was a victim of racism for three times during his playing in AHL. Although he believes that this behavior was the mental part of the game, he says there was no respect for players and a sense of professionalism in this part of the game, which caused suffering him many times. (Szto). All these terrible experiences, which were the isolated community with the tough situation, the women (broads), or even the racism, made Jordin use the alcohol excessively. Jordin was only fourteen years old that he drank alcohol for the first time. He has many reasons for his drinking. Jordin says because his parents always kept alcohol in their home, and his father drank alcohol in front of him, Jordin was encouraged to drink alcohol. He also mentions that because he played hockey every day with older guys who drink alcohol after the game, he wanted to drink too. Jordin points out that after some hockey success because alcohol was easily accessible for him, he increased his consumption of alcohol (Tootoo and Brunt 52-54). In fact, the worst thing about Jordin`s teenage years often would have happened in summer when the NHL and AHL are close. His parents asked him to bring alcohol for them because in Rankin Inlet alcohol is being controlled and needed a permit to bring alcohol. For Jordin, this time meant partying and drinking the most (Tootoo and Brunt 60). Nevertheless, the most important factor that caused him to consume more and more alcohol was his brother`s suicide. When his brother, Terence committed suicide, Jordin became sad and depressed. He sought refuge in alcohol and women because he blamed himself for his brother`s death (Tootoo and Brunt 106). Jordin named this worst days and nights as a tough time which has had a terrible impact on his personal and sports life. He says that he had always felt sleepy due to excessive alcohol consumption, and how he lost some of the games during that time. He explains that alcohol changed his games, and he always felt weak (Tootoo and Brunt 65-67). He says that his life as a young Inuk, who lived in an isolated community and whose brother committed suicide, was drinking to excess and the fame and fortune for him made only opportunities to drink (Kuc). But, Jordin, who learned how to be endurance and struggle with problems in his childhood at Rankin Inlet, voluntarily quit alcohol (Tootoo and Brunt 149). This Jordin’s action shows that why and how he achieved many successes in his life.
Although many hockey experts believe that Jordin`s rough and high-energy style in hockey, which he learned and developed that in Williamson lake during his childhood, led him to succeed, the main reason for the success of Jordin Tootoo is his family. While his father, Barney has a dark side and shadow over his life, he has also been very influential in his sports life. Barney, who has a very bright and strong background in hockey, is the first coach of Jordin. Jordin and his brother Terence always enjoyed watching their father`s playing in Manitoba, and they always wanted to be able to play hockey like him. As a coach, it was Barney who formed and brought up the style of Jordin and his brother`s style in hockey with his hard exercises. Besides Jordin’s father, Jordin’s brother also had an impact on his success. Terence always encouraged and pushed him to play better and better. Jordin says that Terence always asked him to play with him and older guys to improve both Jordin`s physical and tactics (Tootoo and Brunt 21-23). Although Terence`s death led Jordin to be in a terrible condition, Jordin believes that he has received a lot of motivations from a letter, which Tracey wrote to him before his suicide. The text of that note was simple, and in that Terence asked Jordin to do his best, never give up, and take care of their family. Jordin believes that he understood the meaning of each phrase of that note, which was “Do well, Jor. Go all the way. Take care of the family. You are the man. Ter.”. For Jordin “Go all the way” means Jordin go to NHL, and when Terence wrote you are the man, Jordin says his brother encouraged him to be a leader (Kuc). Jordin says that Terence was always a guy who praised him not only as a person but also as a hockey player. Jordin claims that he is still struggling to improve himself to prove to his brother that Jordin will keep his brother name and legacy. He gives all his success credit to his brother. He says that his passion and determination, which courage him to be a successful man, all comes from the stem of how he grew up by mentoring his brother and father. Jordin believes that the most important thing to succeed is having a support group, who always have your back, and for him, they are his family. (CIHR interview).
All in all, the story of Jordin Tootoo is the story of someone who has found a way to succeed in darkness. Jordin, who could see the light at the end of the tunnel, has struggled with all the obstacles and difficulties and has achieved many successes. But, the story of Jordin`s life is full of contradictions. For him, the best is in the pledge of fighting against the worst. For Jordin, the pride of being the first Inuit in the NHL comes with the pain of his brother`s suicide. Although the house is the source of all his problems and miseries like alcohol, his successes come from the same home, where he learns how to play hockey and tackle problems. As hockey for him is a ticket to escape from Rankin Inlet, hockey provided a long, full-fledged path for his success alongside many challenges. Jordin is now not only a role model for the Inuit youth but also represents and symbolizes the culture that gives him the strength and the ways of success. As a role model, Jordin, who is like a torch in the absolute darkness, can show to all youth Inuit that nobody can help them except themselves, and they should endeavor more and more to achieve their goals and never give up.
“Hockey Night in Canada interview with Jordin Tootoo and Brian McGratten.” YouTube, uploaded by Hockey Night in Canada interview, 13 Nov. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcPU16vPeJI.
“Jordin Tootoo Speaks to CIHR about Mental Well-being and Resilience.” YouTube, uploaded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), 26 Mar. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rg5EoVZPp6s.
“Jordin Tootoo.” Mansbridge One on One, created by Peter Mansbridge, performance by CBC Television, season 16, episode 14, News Information Series, 14 Dec. 2014. www.cbc.ca/player/play/2637196755. Accessed 05 June 2018.
“Jordin`s Story.” The Official Website Jordin Tootoo, Timeline, 02 June 2018, www.jordintootoo.com/timeline.
Kuc, Chris. “Blackhawks’ Jordin Tootoo Relishes Sober Life After Years of Alcohol Abuse.” Chicago Tribune, 12 Fed. 2017, www.chicagotribune.com/sports/hockey/blackhawks/ct-jordin-tootoo-alcoholism-blackhawks-spt-0213-20170212-story.html.
Szto, Courtney. “Book Review: Jordin Tootoo’s “All the Way: My Life on Ice”.” Hockey in Society, 5 Jul. 2015, www.hockeyinsociety.com/2015/07/05/book-review-jordin-tootoos-all-the-way-my-life-on-ice/.
Tootoo, Jordin, and Stephen Brunt. All The Way My Life on Ice. Penguin Group, 2014
Wharnsby, Tim. “Brother’s Death Fails to Stop Rising Star.” The Globe and Mail, 17 Apr. 2018, www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/brothers-death-fails-to-stop-rising-star/article1028771/.