Jordin Tootoo nominated for NHL Foundation Player Award
Death of his brother motivated New Jersey Devils winger to support suicide prevention work
The New Jersey Devils have nominated winger Jordin Tootoo for the 2015 NHL Foundation Player Award, for the outreach work he's done in his hometown of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
The annual award is given to a player who uses the core values of hockey "commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community," according to the NHL. The winner of the award is given a grant of $25,000 US to help causes of their choice.
Last year, the award was given to Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks for his work with charitable organizations focused on the families of members of the military.
In 2002, Tootoo — the only Inuit player in the NHL — was deeply affected by the suicide of his older brother, Terence. That experience motivated him to start the Team Tootoo Fund in 2011.
"We started the whole project after my brother passed away and we wanted to raise awareness for suicide prevention and youth at risk," Tootoo said in a press release.
"With suicide, you'll never know the answers. We educate youth about it and give them the opportunity to see the light at the end of the tunnel."
The Team Tootoo Fund supports suicide awareness and anti-bullying initiatives and programs that coach and tutor kids.
Tootoo still makes an effort to maintain ties with his community, returning to Rankin Inlet during the off-season to connect with youth. He also keeps in touch with organizations like the National Inuit Youth Organization, sending inspirational messages to young people via social media.
"Having dealt with mental illness and suicide, I thought I'd be the perfect example," he said.
Tootoo has been sober for five years and often shares his personal story to inspire others who are struggling with substance abuse issues.
He'll continue his outreach work this summer, focusing on domestic violence both locally and nationally.