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Sports Talk
Jordin Tootoo proves there is hope

Jesse Winter
Staff columnist
Monday, June 25, 2012

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It's been a long road for Jordin Tootoo, but his arrival back home is proof positive it's a journey that can be accomplished.

Tootoo was back in Rankin Inlet for the Maani Ulukuk Ilinniarvik award presentations last week, giving out a number of different awards, including one named for his brother, Terence.

Terence killed himself in 2002, and the award that bears his name gives a young player the chance to attend an NHL game in Canada.

It's a fitting tribute to the once-rising star, but what is more telling is the story of both brothers. They occupy polar ends of the same spectrum. Both had their demons, and Jordin's incredible success this season proves that, even in the darkest moments, it is possible to overcome them.

Nearly every hockey commentator on the continent agrees that this season, Jordin played the absolute best hockey of his career. It culminated in his nomination for the Bill Masterton trophy, given to the NHL player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."

Tootoo struggled with alcohol addiction and left his team, the Nashville Predators, in 2011 to deal with his disease. By all accounts, he handled it with exactly the same direction and force that he's known for on the ice: head on and without mercy.

Substance abuse, domestic violence and abuse are issues that still plague many communities, not only in the North but across the country. But there is hope and a way forward; Jordin is proof of that.

With the Soccer for Hope program about to kick off in Kugluktuk this week and Jordin touring the North to spread his message and encouragement, the time is right to make big strides in these very important arenas.

Rick Gill will be running the Soccer for Hope program in Kugluktuk for two weeks before continuing on to Cambridge Bay. He hopes to build networks of support and develop community leaders who young athletes can turn to for help when they need it.

With a role model like Tootoo, he's got all the proof he needs that people can overcome their demons and find success.

  • Jesse Winter is sports editor for Northern News Services.