Jordin Tootoo is the lone player on Team Canada from a territory, and represents the diversity that makes this country great.
Too often we assume that the densely populated centers are the sole producers of athletic talent. Nothing could be farther from the truth when we look at the reality of this year’s World Junior camp. Three players attending the camp hailed from hometowns with fewer than 500 residents, and one, Jordin Tootoo, from a small village in the territory of Nunavut. Being the first player selected to the national junior team in the territory’s young history is not something that Tootoo takes lightly.
"Not very many kids get the opportunity to play international hockey from the territories, and if my being here opens doors for others, then that is something I welcome. I want to play for my family, my people and myself. Being a role model is something that I take very seriously, and I want more kids [from the territories] to play for team Canada, I want to be the first of many more."
Tootoo hails from Rankin Inlet, a tight-knit community of 2500 people nestled not far from the artic circle. After beginning his minor hockey career in Nunavut with his brother Terence, Jordin traveled to Alberta, where a year of play and exposure landed him a position in junior hockey, eventually being selected by the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. Tenacious may be the best way to describe Tootoo, who does not shy away from physical contact. "I’m a player who just loves to get into the corners and muck it out. I make an impact by making impact. By that I mean I love to make the big hits and get the boys going; when I’m on the ice I’m a ferocious player."
Ferocity aside, one thing the stint in Brandon has done for Jordin is diversify his skills and allow himself to be molded into a more complete package. In his three and a half seasons in the prairie city, Tootoo has amassed nearly a point per game, with this season being his best thus far with 52 points in 29 games. In fact, at the time he was called to Halifax for the selection camp, he led the WHL in goals, and was second in both points and penalty minutes. The NHL took notice, and in last year’s draft, Jordin became the first player from Nunavut to be selected by an NHL team, when the Nashville Predators took him in the fourth round.
Tragedy struck Jordin’s life this past summer, however, when his brother Terence passed away. Unlike Jordin, Terence chose a different hockey path, bypassing the junior ranks for a professional contract in the ECHL, making him the first professional hockey player to emerge from Nunavut. With Terence’s subsequent passing a great void was left in Jordin’s life. "My brother Terence was my best friend. I certainly miss him a great deal."
Jordin has pressed on, pouring everything into his hockey, which helped him stand out and be selected to represent his country at the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championships. For Tootoo, it’s one thing to play for yourself in junior and professional hockey, and quite another to represent your country on the ice.
"Representing Canada at the World Juniors is something that a lot of kids dream about, but there are only twenty-two guys who get to see those dreams through. It’s a privilege to play for team Canada, and it’s something that I’m going to represent with pride, and remember every day as it goes. I’m going to play whatever role they want me to play," says Tootoo of his fit with Team Canada.
"Whether that is on the checking line, or being an offensive threat, I feel as though I bring a lot to the table, and a situation that allows the coaches some choice. Most likely, I see myself being on the checking line and being a sparkplug for the team."
As for the tournament itself, Jordin - who wears the number twenty-two in a comedic pun of his last name - simply cannot wait to see the excitement of playing at home. "Canada is the best place to play hockey in the world. To have the home crowd behind you is going to be like having a seventh player on the ice. I think that it is going to be an incredible experience for every guy on the ice."
Responsibility, tragedy and desire to be the best have all driven Jordin Tootoo to achieve the success he has in his young life, perhaps culminating thus far with his selection to Team Canada this past weekend. The Rankin Inlet native has little time to wait now before experiencing the IIHF World Junior Championships, as after a brief exhibition and training schedule, Team Canada takes to the ice of the Halifax Metro Centre for their first game on Thursday, December 26th against Team Sweden.