Jordin Tootoo speaks openly about his pain and trauma, and what led to his recovery.
Former National Hockey League (NHL) star, Jordin Tootoo was a keynote speaker on the last day of the Northern Addictions Engagement and Knowledge Exchange Forum in Prince George. Tootoo’s presentation, Aiming and Wellness Together, spoke openly of his trauma and what led to his recovery journey.
Tootoo began his presentation by speaking of his older brother, Terence Tootoo, who died by suicide. He described how his brother was saddled with overwhelming pressure, uncertainty, and fear – to support their family as a substitute parent, to be the main breadwinner, and to succeed in hockey. Tootoo tells of how their family didn’t communicate, and how feelings and emotions were bottled up, only to be numbed by alcohol. Terence would ultimately take his own life when he was only 22 years old, after he was pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol – thinking he ruined his only chance to support his family through hockey success.
Tootoo said he held in all his pain and anger – and despite his later NHL success and the financial reward that came with it, he still felt empty. Those emotions were buried in alcohol for years, until it couldn’t be hidden anymore from himself or his team.
It was then that Tootoo was forced to confront his addiction and go into rehab, a move that he credits to saving his life. He also attributed his recovery to land-based healing. He said despite his fame and “rock star lifestyle,” when he was on the land, none of that mattered – the land was a place to find peace and harmony without distraction or negativity.
He ended his presentation by asking the audience to have the courage to be vulnerable. He spoke about how repressing his feelings was part of his trauma and he’s now able be open and honest to himself and to the people around him.
For Tootoo, that’s his contribution to ending the cycle of intergenerational trauma. A contribution he acknowledges is difficult, but worthwhile.
Raised in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Tootoo played in the NHL from 2003 to 2017 and was the first person of Inuit descent drafted by an NHL team and to play a regular NHL game.