Rankin Inlet's Avataq Cup renamed Terence Tootoo Memorial Cup

Rankin Inlet’s most popular sporting event gets a brand new name after Jordin Tootoo's late brother Terence Tootoo.

'Anytime I get a chance to talk about my brother, it’s always a positive thing,' says Jordin Tootoo

Jordin Tootoo at age 15, left, with his brother Terence Tootoo, 18, in Portage La Prairie, Man., in 1998. The two were playing for the Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard. (Fred Greenslade/Winnipeg Free Press/Canadian Press)

This year, the most popular sporting event in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, gets a brand new name: the Terence Tootoo Memorial Cup.

"What an honour for our family, in remembrance of my brother Terence who was an avid hockey fan," said Jordin Tootoo of the Chicago Blackhawks, the first Inuk hockey player to play in the NHL.

The community's senior men's hockey league is renaming its annual First Air Avataq Cup in memory of Terence Tootoo who died by suicide at the age of 22 in 2002, after being charged with impaired driving.

The tournament is in its 16th year and garners interest from communities all around the territory. And now, it's become a conversation starter in the South, says Jordin.

"I have a lot of people down South here asking about it. I was able to really explain to everyone, how meaningful Terence was, and what it's going to do for the North."

Jordin said the act of changing the name will bring more awareness to suicide prevention throughout the North.

"Anytime I get a chance to talk about my brother, it's always a positive thing," Jordin said. "I'm really excited."

'It's going to be quite touching'

The tournament begins Wednesday with 10 teams. The few days of round-robins will lead to a weekend of playoffs.

This year, a special team will play — Manitoba's Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) Blizzard, which was Terence's old hockey team. This year's team will consist of old members who played with Terence.

"We're actually quite ecstatic about it. We're so happy," said Rose Tootoo, Terence and Jordin's mother.

"Oh jeez, it was more than exciting for me and Rose," said Barney Tootoo, the boys' father. "Because we know all the boys that played with Terence, so it's going to be nice to see them at a little older age."

It will also be the first time competing for Terence and Jordin's nephew, who used to watch Terence play in the league when he was a child.

"It's going to be quite touching," said Rose.

Barney says Rankin Inlet is a "great hockey town" and that the competition will be "fierce" this weekend.   

"He's well remembered and still loved to this day," said Barney.

With files from Robert Kabvitok