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Back in late December 2010, Jordin Tootoo was playing his typical agitating-style, hitting seemingly everything that moved, fighting, occasionally scoring for the Nashville Predators … and then he was gone into the NHL and NHLPA’s joint substance abuse program on Dec. 27, not to be heard from again until late January/early February.
A shroud of secrecy went over the team. Nobody would really talk about the specifics of how it happened.
Even after Tootoo returned, a lot of the talk was in generalities.
We’re going to know a lot more about Tootoo’s situation really soon. The New Jersey Devils forward, and first Inuit player in NHL history, is coming out with a tell-all book, “All The Way: My Life on Ice” by Stephen Brunt. It hits shelves Tuesday.
Tootoo’s representatives with Titan Sports were nice enough to give us a view of what to expect with an advanced online copy.
Below is when the Predators addressed to Tootoo that he needed to enter the program. It came after a day of drinking at a Tennessee Titans game and a night out after a Garth Brooks concert at Bridgestone Arena.
The next day I got up, went to practice, and played what most hockey players call “guilty hockey”—where you work extra hard to try to show that you weren’t really out the night before.
After practice, David Poile called me into his office to explain a phone call he’d received the day before. I think what happened was that a few of the workers in the Gaylord Center saw me and told someone that Tootoo was out of control, and word got back to Poile.
I was still hung to the gills and I reeked of booze. I was thinking,’ What the [expletive] did I do now?’—and I really didn’t know. I tried to trace events back to Saturday night, but I had no clue. I had been so drunk I’d blacked out. Of course, the first thing I did was deny any wrongdoing. I said that it hadn’t been me. I played the “popular” card. It had been a team party and of course I was singled out of the twenty guys that were having a good time, because people know who I am.
Poile had heard all of that too many times before, and he wasn’t buying it anymore. He gave me an ultimatum. He said:
“If you don’t accept what we’re offering you, we’ve got to let you go. You’re damaging our team. You have to enter the NHLPA substance abuse program and go into rehab or we’re going to cut you, and everyone will know why.”
Right then and there, I decided I wasn’t going to fight it anymore. I said, “[Expletive], I’m done. Let’s go.”
I haven’t had a drink since. Not one.
This is from when Tootoo entered the rehab facility in California
By the time I walked into The Canyon, I’d been sober for a detox. But I still had to go through a process where they monitor you for a week. I had arrived in the middle of the night, when everyone was sleeping. I got up the next day, walked into a room, and saw all of these F’d-up people sitting around. We were sitting in a circle and I was looking around and thinking, ‘Am I really like this? Do I look like these people?’
What the [expletive] is going on? These people are in here for hardcore crap: heroin, cocaine. But I had to understand that I was one of those people, too; I couldn’t separate myself from the other patients.
We all had problems and we were all trying to fix them. I couldn’t just sit there and think, I’m not F’d up like them. I was there to fix myself. And at the same time, I couldn’t be worrying about the other guys and how F’d up they were and stressing about their problems. I was there to fix myself.
Tootoo had quite a triumphant return, notching five points in six games in Nashville’s first round win over the Anaheim Ducks in the 2011 playoffs.
His play improved enough to merit a three-year $5.7 million contract with the Red Wings in the summer of 2012. He eventually was bought out, but was scooped up by the Devils after a training camp tryout.
The NHL and NHLPA’s joint substance abuse program is often shrouded in secrecy – and understandably so. It involves a player’s private life. But maybe Tootoo’s book will shed light on how this process works. It’s available on Amazon.com.
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