Jordin Tootoo has always been a fan favorite in Nashville. However, what the fans saw on the ice and what happened off the ice were two completely different things.
The Nashville community and the entire NHL was taken aback last season when Tootoo voluntarily checked himself into the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program in late December. When news like that appears in your timeline/feed/newspaper/etc, you take a step back as a fan (or writer/blogger) of the team and can only hope the person in question will get the help they are looking for and come out better than ever.
What emerged was analogous to the legend of the Phoenix bird, rising from the ashes a brand new being. Tootoo was a new man and a new player, with a new lease on life. Although he was and is prohibited to speak about why he sought out help, when he came back he had nothing but positive thoughts.
“With the support I’ve gotten from my teammates, my family, the fans of Nashville, it has been unbelievable,” Tootoo said. “Without their support, I probably couldn’t have done it, I think bottom line is it’s something I needed to do and at the same time, I’m just happy to be back and thankful.” (NOTE: Quoted from this article)
The 2001 4th round draft pick would go on to finish the season tying his career best in points with 18 in only 51 games (8 goals, 10 assists).
Tootoo’s role over his 7 season with the Predators has been typically of a grinder/agitator, but has shown he has the skills to be an offensive threat and he has a slap shot that rivals the speed and power of teammate Shea Weber’s. Although his penalty minutes have been on the decline over the past two seasons, Tootoo isn’t afraid to back down to the opposing competition. “I’m not going to shy away from what my foundation is, playing physical and creating room out there for myself and my teammates,” Tootoo said, “As the years go on, you mature as a player and you get more comfortable. I think I’m in that situation”
The Churchill, Manitoba-born, but Rankin Inlet, Nunavut native knows that the opportunities he creates from his physical play can’t be wasted. “When you’re creating more opportunities, things happen. This year, I’m looking to capitalize on every opportunity that is given to me and go from there,” said Tootoo.
When the Nashville Predators started their training camp this past Saturday, Tootoo was one of the clear on ice leaders during the opening weekend’s activities, which resulted in him being named the Assistant Captain for his game against the Florida Panthers on Monday afternoon’s game in the first of the historic double-header.
“You know, we want to build off the momentum we had last spring and bring it right into day one here in camp,” Tootoo said when I asked him what he was looking forward to this upcoming season.”We just have to feed off each other, use that experience from what we learned last year and build on it.”
In the end, Nashville may have made their best acquisition of the off-season with the new and improved Jordin Tootoo. He made it very clear that everything starts away from the rink before you capitalize on the rink:
“It all starts with being a professional away from the game and looking after myself. Everything is moving in the right direction. I feel great, and I’m happy to be where I am.”
Tootoo is the 10th youngest player to play for the Nashville Predators, is the franchise leader for penalty minutes with 633, and is tied for second in most career playoff games played for the Predators with 36 (tied with Erat. Legwand holds the record at 37). He is currently 6th among active Nashville Predator players for most points in the franchise and is 22nd all-time.