Jordin Tootoo was hearing from friends and fellow Kelowna residents Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook this summer about possibly joining the Blackhawks.
Not that Tootoo needed much convincing when he did get the call from general manager Stan Bowman.
“It was a no brainer. The opportunity came up and I couldn’t pass it up,” Tootoo said Friday. “Who wouldn’t want to play for the Blackhawks?”
Keith and Seabrook’s “recruiting” process obviously worked, as Tootoo signed a one-year deal earlier this month. Tootoo doesn’t come here under any illusions: he knows his game and knows the Blackhawks need to replace Andrew Shaw’s abrasiveness. Keith and Seabrook didn’t have to sell Tootoo much on the Blackhawks but that didn’t stop them. Tootoo said he heard the sales pitch, “at the gym, on the water, on the golf course.”
Seabrook said they were just giving Tootoo the lowdown on the organization.
[SHOP: Grab your Blackhawks gear here, fans!]
“We talked to him a little bit, skated with him in the summer and we live close to each other,” Seabrook said. “We had some conversations and I think Duncan and myself, [we were] just trying to pump up us as a team and organization and things like that and let him make his decision.”
Tootoo spent the last two seasons with the New Jersey Devils. He recorded 14 goals and 10 assists over those two seasons. But Tootoo is more known for aggravating opponents and making their on-ice lives difficult.
“I know playing against him, I don’t like going back for pucks when he’s on the ice. You always have to be aware when he’s on the ice because he’s going to finish every hit,” Keith said. “I think it was a great addition to have him, some physicality. I know the fans in Chicago like seeing big hits at the United Center and I know he’s going to bring that intensity, and I Just know his heart and his attitude. He’s the type of guy that’s willing to do whatever it takes to win and help his teammates.”
Tootoo is also doing his part to help people off the ice. Last year he talked to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research about mental well-being and resilience. Tootoo, who also wrote his autobiography “All the Way: My Life on Ice,” talked in the video about losing his brother to suicide as well and overcoming alcoholism. It’s a powerful message, and one that the now happy and healthy Tootoo felt needed to be made.
“Obviously everyone has their own story and I think when you’re open and honest about what’s going on, it’s only going to help you,” Tootoo said. “For me, I’m very comfortable and content in my own skin and that has to do with maturing as a person off the ice. I’ve been sober now for six years. Today I’m sober and I’m grateful for that.”