The year 2011 has seen a lot of tragedies in the hockey world, as Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak have all lost their lives after battling tragic circumstances such as drug addiction or depression.
In December of 2010, Tootoo voluntarily entered the NHL Player’s Association Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, looking to overcome a strong opponent in alcoholism. He first developed the disease in 2002 when his brother, Terence, committed suicide in the wake of a drunk-driving arrest.
According to a CBC interview with his mother, Rose, last year, Tootoo had been unable to deal with his problem and could not talk about it with his family. However, voluntarily entering rehab was a brave step for Tootoo, and it only solidified his status as a role model in his Nunavut community.
Rose Tootoo said:
“I’m not worried at all, I’m so happy that he’s decided to do what he’s done, and on his own. We’re extremely proud of him…everybody’s telling us he’s an inspiration.”
Jordin Tootoo stayed in rehab for a month and was released in January of 2011. He was allowed to practice with the Predators while undergoing outpatient treatment. Upon re-joining the team, he also earned the support of Nashville general manager David Poile, who told Fox Sports:
Nobody’s perfect. We all have different issues in our life. I think that it just reached you know a situation where he was becoming more difficult and obviously a distraction to others in our organization. The point is, this is the important point, is that Jordin got it and Jordin did it and he knows he’s better off for it today.
Predators head coach Barry Trotz agreed, saying in the same article:
“He is dealing with it the right way and he’s manning up and that’s what you’re proud of. He’s manning up and taking responsibility and that’s the first step for success.”
Tootoo finished the 2010-11 season with 18 points, matching a career high from the 2007-08 season. He also had six points in 12 playoff games as the Predators went to the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time in team history.
Recently, Tootoo celebrated a year of being sober. According to an article in USA Today, he has not had a drink since Dec. 18, 2010. He decided the next day he didn’t want to have another alcoholic drink and began the process of getting into rehab.
Even though Tootoo made the decision on his own, it wasn’t easy, as he told USA Today:
“I had it set in my gut that this was the time to fix things, and my flight over there, it all sunk in. I kind of said ‘holy crap, this is for real’ but I didn’t know what to expect.”
Tootoo has become a different person since finishing rehab. This year, he started the Team Tootoo fund in honor of his brother. The organization works with nonprofits dedicated to suicide prevention and awareness, as well as those that support children and teenagers in need.
In December, the fund held a wristband sale at a Predators home game and collected toys for the Salvation Army. Every fan who came to the toy drive with a donation got an autograph from Tootoo.
Not only does he have the support of the Predators, he can count on someone else who has been through the same thing: his Nashville teammate, Brian McGrattan. McGrattan also dealt with alcoholism and has been sober for three years.
“Everything probably hasn’t been gravy for him the last year, but he has pushed through it. He hasn’t had a drink. And anybody who can do that, I have the utmost respect for.”
Tootoo’s hockey career is also still on the right track. He has 16 points through 35 games and is on pace to have 37 points, which would be a new career high. He is part of a Nashville team that is currently seventh in the Western Conference.
While Tootoo’s hockey brothers who could not beat their demons will always be missed, it is comforting to know that he is one of the ones who overcame what was keeping him down. His commitment to staying clean and his community involvement should make him a role model to NHL fans young and old.
To learn more about Team Tootoo or to make a donation, visit the website of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.