Long-time NHL grinder Jordin Tootoo is set to be honored tonight by his junior team, the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, and again by the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow. Well, the 35-year-old got the weekend’s festivities off to a hot start this evening by officially announcing his retirement from pro hockey. The veteran of 723 NHL games missed all of last season due to injury and had not signed with any team this off-season. He now sets his sights on a new venture.
Tootoo, a long-time Nashville Predator, was selected in the fourth round of the 2001 NHL Draft. A two-way standout with the Wheat Kings and a member of Canada’s World Juniors team, Tootoo entered the league with high expectations. Although he never quite developed into a scoring threat at the NHL level, Tootoo made a living doing the dirty work: forechecking, winning battles along the boards, fighting for space in front of the net, and of course fighting. Tootoo’s hard work kept him in Nashville for eight years. In his final season with the team, his hard work earned him a career-high 13 minutes of ice time per night, which he turned into a career-best 30 points. That off-season, Tootoo signed with the Detroit Red Wings. He would suit up for two seasons apiece with Detroit and the New Jersey Devils before closing out his career in 2016-17 with the Chicago Blackhawks. In fact, Tootoo earned an extension from Chicago that would have played out last year, had it not been for an upper-body that kept him out all season. At the end of a 13-year NHL career, Tootoo totaled 65 goals, 96 assists, and over 1000 penalty minutes.
However, it is not Tootoo’s statistics that most will remember him for. It won’t even be his grit, his loyalty, or his work ethic. Instead, Tootoo will always be known for the impact he had on the indigenous populations of Canada. The first native Inuk to play in the NHL, Tootoo has devoted his career to advancing the game of hockey for indigenous peoples. It is an effort that has earned him respect and recognition across the league, even with a team he never played for – the Oilers – honoring his work. Tootoo will now turn his full attention to the mission that means so much to him. Tootoo has already done so much, but just as the hard-working veteran played on the ice, there is always more to do.