September 25, 2011
Tootoo slaying his demons
By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
NASHVILLE -- Jordin Tootoo needed some help, so he went out and got it.
The end result saw Tootoo enter the NHL's substance abuse program last December and emerge with a clearer mind and an improved game.
"He's got his life in order," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. "He's had a lot of demons and a lot of things that get in the way. If you're your life and your head is not clear, then it's just full of clutter. You don't have the motivation, you don't have the instinct, all of those things. He couldn't grow as a hockey player anymore.
"When he came back, I thought he had the best stretch of his career. Not only is he still a force with the physical contact and as a tough, game-changing type of guy. But those skills that we knew he always had, are starting to come to the forefront. He's capable of producing a lot, he's capable of being a higher contributing guy in our lineup and he wants to do that. He's very proud of the fact he had to change his life and it's not really easy."
So what was it that led the 28-year-old Tootoo to realize that he needed to get help?
"There comes a point in life where you have to take a few steps back and reevaluate your whole situation," said Tootoo, whose older brother Terrence committed suicide in August of 2002. "Last year things were always up-and-down and what-not. You have to look after your personal life, get all straightened out and let good things happen."
The support of his teammates and the entire Predators organization is something Tootoo will always appreciate.
"When times are tough away from the game, we're all family at the end of the day," he said. "It was great to see the guys supporting me and get through a lot of different ups-and-downs throughout my career. Without their support, without my family and friends it would be pretty tough to get through. Having that support group is an uplifting feeling."
Tootoo, who spent the summer training in Kelowna, B.C., has always been one of the most popular Predators because of his tenacious style and willingness to stand up for his teammates.
He's not about to abandon what got him to the NHL, but he's hoping to become more of an offensive contributor as well and believes 20 goals is a reality.
"Absolutely," said Tootoo, who finished last season with eight goals and 18 points in 54 games and added a goal and six points in 12 playoff games. "I want to build off what happened at the end of last year. Like I've said before, when your mind is clear, the game tends to slow down a little bit. I've been here since Day 1 and as the years go on, you become more confident and more comfortable out there. When the team is playing great, all of the individual stuff tends to fall into place."
"He's been a big part of this organization right from the start," said Predators captain Shea Weber. "Last year after he got back, especially in the playoffs, he was on top of his game and hopefully that can continue to roll into the start of this year."