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COLUMN: What Tootoo accomplished

Jordin Tootoo's retirement announcement caught more than a few Nunavummiut off-guard earlier this month – mainly those who were still hoping against hope the rugged winger would somehow end up catching on with another NHL team for one more season in the show.
But, while one should never discourage hope, the writing was on the wall for those who follow the NHL and Tootoo's career closely.

While you would be hard-pressed to find any hockey fan in Nunavut not sad to see Tootoo's NHL career come to an end, the timing was right for him to step away on his own terms from the game that had given him so much and Rankin's own now former NHLer did it with style and class.

Holding his retirement press conference in Brandon, Man., where it all started for him and where he experienced so much joy and tragedy, was truly a class act.

So, too, was the amount of time Tootoo took in thanking all those who stood by him throughout the years, starting with his family and continuing on through the folks in Brandon to include every NHL general manger who signed him to a contract and his first coach in Nashville, Barry Trotz, who was one of the instrumental figures on starting Tootoo on his road to sobriety.

Tootoo mentioned the bonds formed with his teammates, many of which will last a lifetime and paid tribute to the folks who, ultimately, allow the game to thrive and the players to be paid – the fans!

Perhaps most appealing about Tootoo's farewell to the NHL was the time he took to not make it about himself, choosing instead to cast a bright light on the problems so many Indigenous youths still face today and mentioning the need for corporations to partner-up and do their share to help make life a little better for these deserving kids.

Tootoo continues, of course, to do far more than his share in helping kids to overcome the challenges they face in their daily lives and he works tirelessly to bring a message of hope to them while encouraging them to follow their dreams.

And, he is a living example that the odds can be beat, not once, but twice in his lifetime in making the NHL and maintaining his sobriety.

Tootoo also found the inner-strength to live past the devastating loss of his older brother, Terence, to suicide – an older brother Jordin absolutely idolized while growing up and skating after his dream of playing in the NHL.

It would have been so easy for him to have just given up, but he found a way to persevere. And, today, he is not only totally-deserving of the term ‘role model' for Inuit youth (all youth says this corner), but he is also an effective spokesperson for suicide prevention and mental-health issues.

Tootoo plans to continue working hard with Indigenous youth now that he's retired and we wish him all the luck in the world with those efforts, knowing he has a great story of inspiration to share.

It is not a time to be sad about the end of Jordin's career – as much as we will all miss cheering for him over our TV sets – it is a time to celebrate the man's accomplishments and successes and cheer him on with his future endeavours working with youth.

There is little doubt there will be more successes for him on that front.

And, we totally agree with Jordin's own assessment of his hockey career as it has, indeed, been one hell of a ride!