Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Jordin Tootoo celebrates the day he was 'gifted a new life'

Blackhawks: Jordin Tootoo celebrates the day he was 'gifted a new life'

Numbers and dates. We all have those we celebrate, be it birthdays or holidays or anniversaries. For Jordin Tootoo, Dec. 19, 2010 will always hold a special place.

On that day Tootoo stopped drinking and, as he tweeted on Monday, he “was gifted a new life.” Now happy and healthy, a married man with a 7 ½-month-old daughter, Tootoo, who signed with the Blackhawks last summer, is grateful and humbled at how he’s turned his life around.

“Well, it’s obviously a huge accomplishment,” Tootoo said earlier this week. “The first few years are pretty tough. But when you have a great support system, by that I mean the guys in the dressing room respecting your personal decision to go that route, it always makes you feel a lot more comfortable around the guys. For me, it was a personal issue I wanted to figure out and get a grasp on it. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my teammates.”

For Tootoo, things had just added up over the years. It started with a family tragedy, when Jordin’s brother Terence died by suicide in 2002. By December of 2010, when Tootoo was playing for the Nashville Predators, he knew he had to change. He entered the NHL/NHLPA’s substance abuse program a few days prior to 2011. Now, if Tootoo can try to help others avoid the rough path he took, he’ll do it.

“You try and hide, thinking you have control of it. For me, it was a number of different things that happened and, obviously, 14 years ago when I lost my brother it kind of started from back then. But for me, I’m grateful for every experience I’ve been through,” Tootoo said. “Growing up as a kid, you go through a lot of different situations and everyone has their own story. For me to share mine, hopefully I can help one or two kids.”

Tootoo is open about what he’s overcome; his autobiography, “All the Way: My Life on Ice,” came out in 2014. Teammate Scott Darling, who fought and won his own battle with alcohol, can appreciate the journey.

“You know, numbers and dates like that, they’re great to celebrate. For him it’s just great to see the way he lives his life,” said Darling, who bought Tootoo’s book on Friday. “I didn’t know him before but I can imagine things weren’t great, otherwise he wouldn’t have wanted to make the change. Just to see how he lives his life today and see how happy he is to come to the rink, he’s always positive and excited.

“Numbers and dates are great to acknowledge but for me, he’s an example to anyone,” Darling continued. “He’s just a positive, happy person, and it’s great to see.”

Tootoo said he’s talked to plenty of others about turning his life around. To him, the conversations aren’t always easy, but they’re important.

“Throughout the league, a lot of guys have similar stories. everyone’s fighting a fight you know nothing about. For me, it’s about being open and honest and being comfortable in your own skin,” Tootoo said. “To have those experiences and to share them among the guys in the room and say, ‘Hey, if you’re going through a tough time it’s OK to talk.’ And that’s what’s great about having a group of guys who are open and honest. It just goes to show you that there’s a lot of trust in each other.

The support continues for Tootoo with the Blackhawks.

“I said to him the next day, that’s not easy to go through that. I’ve never been in that situation but he’s put a lot of hard work into it,” said Brian Campbell. “He still has a good time. We go out for dinner and, that’s the thing, he’s still hilarious. Sometimes people associate being funny with drinking but he’s a lot of fun, has a great personality and he deserves everything like that that he gets.”

Numbers and dates: we all have those which are important to us. For Tootoo, Dec. 19 was the date he got a second chance, and he’s been grateful for every day since.

“You grow as a person and you see life from a different perspective. I couldn’t have imagined being married and having a baby six or seven years ago. It’s brought a lot of joy in my life away from the rink,” Tootoo said. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my teammates. It was the best gift that given to me, bar none, and the past six years have been pretty amazing.”

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

"Every game now is a playoff game, pretty much. We've got to approach it like it's life or death."

Those were the words of Drake Caggiula and that was the mindset for the Blackhawks going into their five-game road trip in Western Canada, which was easily their most important swing of the season to date, given the circumstances. All five teams were ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, the Blackhawks were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and they had a chance to prove themselves ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

The Blackhawks finished the trip with a 1-4-0 record, picking up only two out of a possible 10 points. They ended the weekend sitting six points out of the final wild card spot with two games in hand but four teams to jump. It's not impossible to get back in the race, but the cards are certainly stacked against them.

So what did we learn about this team?

The easy narrative would be to say the Blackhawks shrunk in games that had playoff-type implications, but that‘s just not true. They simply failed to capitalize on their opportunities, and they had plenty of them.

In Game 1 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks held a 2-0 lead before allowing a shorthanded goal in the second period that was the first of five unanswered for the Jets, who went on to win 5-2. The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play and were outscored (1-0), outshot (3-2) and out-chanced (4-2) during those three opportunities. That was their downfall.

In Game 2 against Edmonton, the Blackhawks held a pair of one-goal leads — 2-1 in the first period and 3-2 in the second period — but couldn’t close the deal despite the Oilers playing without the NHL's best player in Connor McDavid. Again, a huge missed opportunity that was there for the taking.

In Game 3 against Vancouver, the Blackhawks peppered a season-high 49 shots on goal on Jacob Markstrom, 25 of which came from high-danger areas, but couldn't crack the code. It was one of their most dominating performances of the season from start to finish and yet they weren't rewarded for it.

In Game 4 against Calgary, the market quickly corrected itself when the Blackhawks scored a season-high eight goals on 28 shots in an 8-4 win over the Flames. It’s the exact response they were looking for, with all four lines contributing on the scoresheet.

In Game 5 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks scored the first goal, then fell behind 2-1 before evening things up at 2-2 in the final minute of the second period. The game was up for grabs. But the Jets scored 1:36 into the third period after a shot from the point deflected off Alex DeBrincat’s stick and in, and it turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Look, there are no moral victories at this time of year. An ugly win beats the heck out of a pretty loss.

If the power play doesn't go 0-for-14, we might be having a different discussion because it had a chance to change the complexion of each game except the last one — because, well, there were no penalties called on either side, which was the first time that's happened in an NHL game this season.

But the Blackhawks have no margin for error and they're learning that the hard way.

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3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

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USA TODAY

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, but the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to close out their five-game road trip. Here are three takeaways:

Bad trip

After losing in Winnipeg, the Blackhawks finished their five-game road trip with a 1-4-0 record. They began the trip last Sunday in Winnipeg with a 5-2 loss. 

Sunday's game against the Jets had flashes of good, but it was mostly strong plays from the go-to guys like Kane and Jonathan Toews. All three Jets' goals came from deflections off shots from the point. Overall, the effort and productivity paled in comparison to the lone victory of the trip, Saturday's 8-4 win over the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. 

The Blackhawks, six points out of the second wild card spot, will return home and face the New York Rangers at the United Center on Wednesday. They have 23 regular season games remaining. 

Kane keeps climbing 

With a two-point outing in Winnipeg, Kane tied former Blackhawk Steve Larmer for 87th on the NHL all-time points list with 1,012. 

"Showtime" set up Ryan Carpenter for the first goal of the game at 15:44 of the first period by backhanding a pass towards the front of the net for the crashing Carpenter to bury.

Kane scored with less than a minute remaining in the second period to tie it 2-2 off a three-way passing play with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. Kane has 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in his past 18 games. 

With the primary assist on Kane's goal, Toews earned his sixth point (two goals, four assists) of the road trip. 

0.0

Sunday's Blackhawks-Jets game was the only NHL contest this season to have zero penalties. This was good news for Toews, who had five minor penalties over the prior four games. 

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