The first Inuk to play in the National Hockey League says he hopes his new book will inspire others to seek help with their difficulties.
In All the Way: My Life on Ice, a collaboration with sports journalist Stephen Brunt, Jordin Tootoo talks about his personal life and struggles.
“It’s just not a hockey book,” Tootoo says. “I’ve had a lot of success in my life, but along with that comes hardships and these are some of them that I’ve endured.”
One is the loss of his older brother, Terence, who died by suicide after being charged with impaired driving in 2002 at age 22. A suicide note read: ''Do well, Jor. Go all the way. Take care of the family. You're the man, Ter.''
Twelve years later, the event still casts a long shadow on Tootoo.
“I just want people to understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said in an interview broadcast on CBC Nunavut, where the rate of suicide has reached crisis proportions.
This year alone, three people have already taken their own lives in Tootoo’s home town of Rankin Inlet, pop. 2,600. According to Nunavut's coroner, the community has experienced 30 suicides since Nunavut was created in 1999.
“People hold a lot of negative energy in and are too shy to open up and talk about it,” Tootoo says. “This book is really to help people open up and not be afraid to speak. I don’t want those hardships to end in a negative way with taking a life, and unfortunately we’ve experienced that with my brother Terence.”
In the book, Tootoo also talks about his decision four years ago to seek treatment for substance abuse, a decision he says changed his life.
He says writing this book, a process that took three years, was part of the healing process.
“You’ve got to be able to let things go. When you’re able to talk about it, it releases negativity and you become more comfortable in your own skin.”
Now Tootoo plays right wing with the New Jersey Devils. He is a major role model for young people in Nunavut, where he says substance abuse and “everything that goes along with it,” including depression and suicide, is rampant.
But there are solutions, he says.
“Everybody is going through a fight that no one else knows, and when you speak about it publicly, it helps to get that weight off your shoulders.”
All the Way: My Life on Ice, is available online and in bookstores.