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Finding the light on your path

It was always cool to me to watch Rankin Inlet’s own Jordin Tootoo play in the NHL, although I was disappointed in the way Detroit treated him during his stay there and, to a lesser extent, Chicago, as well – two places where the players on the team wanted him there.

But, first and foremost, when you realize how very, very few of all those with hopes, dreams and aspirations of playing in the NHL truly have as much as even an outside chance at making the show. If you’re  a fan of the coolest game on Earth, you also truly have to respect the amount of talent, dedication and hard work it takes a player to make the greatest hockey league in the world, especially those destined to occupy a spot on a team’s third or fourth forward line or third pairing on defense.

So, in the eyes of the game – which is a pretty big deal to me – Jordin had my respect from day one.

And, as every Canadian knows with even a passing interest in the sport of hockey, or the state of Indigenous affairs in our country, Jordin is also deserving of our respect for the undeniable reason that he is still here among us today, after the tragedy that befell the Tootoo family.

Most realize Jordin’s older brother, Terence – who was also the biggest influence on his burgeoning young life that was headed for NHL stardom – took his own life during an alcohol-fueled moment when he believed he had let down Jordin, his family and all his people (Inuit) when he was arrested for drinking and driving.

Although he struggled for many years shouldering that burden along the way, the fact Jordin did come out of that long, dark and painful tunnel at the other end, truly is proof that miracles, for whatever reason, do exist.

You just have to respect that.

But for all the respect I have for Jordin during those triumphant and trying times in his life’s journey; reading and listening to accounts of his visit to Red River College in Winnipeg earlier this month, confirmed to me that I did, in fact, gain a whole new level of respect for the man after his playing days in the NHL were at an end.

My life has revolved, in its entirety, around music, hockey and the written word. Now, as an aging scribe of some note, the words do not come easily to properly define the way I view Jordin today.

He is still the NHL player who I was so proud to know, especially after adopting his home community as my own, and, sadly, he is still, in many ways, a tragic figure to me worthy of creation by the Bard himself.

But now I find Jordin’s life to be burgeoning once again; not on a path to the NHL, but a path the league did help find.

It’s a path of self-discovery that has him reaching out, not just to indigenous folks, but to all manner of people.

People who might find something in his story that holds the key to lifting them out of depression. Or, they may finally discover the way to move past the kind of crippling pain that can completely destroy one’s mental stability. 

Rose and Barney Tootoo conduct the ceremonial faceoff with Jordin Tootoo, left, and Piqut Nukapiak to launch the 2019 Terence Tootoo Memorial senior men's championship in Rankin Inlet on March 8, 2019. NNSL file photo
Rose and Barney Tootoo conduct the ceremonial faceoff with Jordin Tootoo, left, and Piqut Nukapiak to launch the 2019 Terence Tootoo Memorial senior men’s championship in Rankin Inlet in March 2019.
NNSL file photo

That type of pain comes with the loss of a life that can never be replaced nor, possibly even worse, properly explained.

But Jordin also comes with a message for indigenous youth that is one of strength, endurance, and the type of trust and belief in one’s own abilities that can often topple any barrier standing between someone and the realization of their dreams.

And, he is living proof that no matter how dark the way may become, a light may still fall on your path to help you complete the journey, if you want it bad enough.

Now you have to respect that!