Off-Ice inspiration from an Indigenous Role Model
- Local Journalism Initiative - Campbell Stevenson | December 18, 2023
PASQUA FIRST NATION – Retired NHL player Jordin Tootoo made some rounds in Treaty 4 territory during the month of November.
One of the stops he made was in Pasqua First Nation for its National Addiction Awareness Week.
Tootoo, the former NHL right-winger, author and motivational speaker is most known for being the first Inuk hockey player to make it to the NHL.
During his 13-year career he played for the Nashville Predators, the Detroit Redwings, the New Jersey Devils, and the Chicago Blackhawks before officially retiring in 2018 to focus on other passions.
But Tootoo wasn’t in Pasqua to just talk sports.
“Hockey has allowed me to experience a lot in life, but ultimately, it’s about sharing my journey with our own people,” said Tootoo.
It was during his final years of playing hockey, he decided to shed the weight of alcoholism and enter rehab.
In addition to rehabilitation, Tootoo credits land-based healing and spirituality for aiding in his recovery.
“I’ve always allowed myself to reconnect with the land,” he said. “Each individual has their own journey, for me, as an Indigenous person, it was the land where I’ve always felt whole, comfortable and content.”
Tootoo said reconciling with oneself is the first step of overcoming addictions. The next step is to uplift your community by raising awareness.
“Having clarity and being content in your own body and being present will have a lot of beneficial outcomes for people who are wanting to change their lives,” he said. “A lot of our people are afraid of change, but we are resilient. Whatever is put in front of us we’ll overcome, but it takes a community, you can’t do it on your own.”
Following his retirement from the NHL, Tootoo has been on a mission to give-back to Indigenous communities by sharing his life story.
Giving back to the community was something his late brother Terrance, who was also a hockey phenom, talked about doing.
His brother committed suicide at the age of 22.
In 2017, Rankin Inlet - where the Tootoo brothers are from - renamed its annual Avataq Cup the Terrance Tootoo Memorial Cup.
Earlier this year, Tootoo released his second-book, Mind Over Matter: Hard Won Battles on the Road to Hope- a story depicting his healing process in the wake of his brothers’ passing.
“As men, we don’t need solutions or answers, we just want to be heard. So, it’s important to allow a space for that,” said Tootoo. “It’s not about wins or losses in life, it’s about community, being one. Uplifting your own people, rather than dragging them down.”
His first book is All the Way: My Life on Ice released in 2015 is a national best seller.
Tootoo was also a keynote for Kahkewistahaw First Nation’s Addiction Awareness Week.