Jordin Tootoo is hanging up his skates after 13 NHL seasons. The first Inuk to make the league announced his retirement Friday in Brandon, Manitoba, where he spent four seasons in junior hockey with the Wheat Kings.
“It’s difficult to describe the emotions I feel as I look back,” said the right wing who played in 723 NHL games between Nashville, New Jersey, Detroit and Chicago. “I’ll sum it up in one word: gratitude. The camaraderie with the players and the connection with the fans is is one thing you need to experience to believe. It has enriched my life beyond words.”
Tootoo, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Predators in 2001, netted 65 goals and 96 assists over the course of his career and was never one to shy away from dropping the gloves. He amassed over 1,000 penalty minutes and more than 90 regular-season fighting majors, according to hockeyfghts.com. The 35-year-old’s career ended after an upper-body injury kept him out for the entire 2017-18 season.
“I’m retiring with no regrets,” said Tootoo, who hails from Rankin Inlet of the Nunavut Territory that has a population under 3,000. “It’s been a great run and now it’s time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.
“I know I will always remain close to my native roots and will continue to work to enhance life for native children who are suffering . . . I want to work with communities to create awareness around mental health and to support suicide prevention initiatives.”
In 2011 he started the Team Tootoo Fund to assist nonprofits addressing suicide awareness and prevention, and supporting at-risk youth — topics that hit close to home. Tootoo lost his older brother Terence to suicide in 2002 following an arrest on drunken driving charges.
“His final words to me were, ‘Jor, go all the way. Take care of the family. You are the man,'” he said at the press conference announcing his retirement. “I can only hope that I lived up to your expectations, bro.”
Tootoo credited the city of Nashville, where he spent the first eight years of his career, with helping him get through the grieving process. He also thanked Predators general manager David Poile and former Nashville coach Barry Trotz for helping him realize that he needed help with his alcoholism, and Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, who believed in him during his recovery.
Tootoo, who became emotional during his speech, credits everything to hockey.
“I wil leave this game at peace with myself, with the love of my family and with the memories that will last a lifetime. I owe my life to this game,” he said.
If the reaction to his retirement on Twitter is any indication, Tootoo left a lasting mark on the game.