The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/18/12 at 06:45 PM ET
Updated 3x at 7:45 PM: If you’d told me a month ago that on July 18th, I would have spoken to Mike Babcock for ten minutes during the Wings’ summer development camp, and that Jordin Tootoo would have Tweeted the following, I would have laughed at you:
Off to Detroit in the morning ! Looking forward to finding myself a new home.— Jordin Tootoo (@Jtootoo22) July 17, 2012
Jordin Tootoo is indeed a member of the Red Wings, and perhaps the most detested member of an opposing team to join Detroit’s ranks since Chris Chelios did indeed don a Wings jersey today, as noted by the Wings’ official Twitter account…
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Assistant general manager Jim Nill gives newcomer Jordin Tootoo his Red Wings sweater this morning at the Joe. twitter.com/HeleneStJames/…— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 18, 2012
I guess he’s “our Tootoo” now, eh?
Jordin Tootoo: “I’m fortunate to have that little spark in me that drives teams nuts. It’s going to be a great fit here.” #RedWings— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 18, 2012
St. James duly noted that Tootoo is indeed going to provide the Wings with an element of sandpaper that the team hasn’t possessed since Dallas Drake played for the team, and Tootoo told St. James that the Wings came after him very hard:
“It happened pretty quick—July 1, I was talking to a few other teams, and then Detroit came over the top,” Tootoo said. “Obviously, it was just the right fit for me to come in here and play the role that I play. I know the organization, as we played against them over the years, and you know, I think the biggest thing was staying in the Western Conference. That was a big part of it.”
The first Wings player to call and welcome Tootoo was Henrik Zetterberg, the heir apparent to just-retired captain Nicklas Lidstrom. Wings forward Darren Helm is a longtime friend of Tootoo.
Tootoo, 29, spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Nashville Predators, where he became a fan favorite for his grittiness. The Wings saw him as an integral part of their plans as they reshape themselves to be harder to play against. They have him slotted to play wing on the third or fourth line.
For his part, Tootoo sees Detroit as a place to further his career. He said he has come a long way from December 2010, when he voluntarily sought treatment for alcohol problems.
“My foundation is being a physical player out there, crashing and banging,” he said. “But at the same time, I know I can play in different situations. For me, it’s earning those situations and knowing that if you come to work every day and work hard, good things happen. I think, over the last year and a half, everything has just been really falling into place for me. I feel that I’m in the prime of my career, and this is the place where I feel that we are going to win a Stanley Cup.”
Tootoo was at the arena with his girlfriend, Jennifer. The two don’t plan to stay long, for now.
“It’s a quick trip here,” Tootoo said. “I want to get familiar with the surroundings. I’m definitely looking for a place to live in. Today is going to be a busy day. This whole experience has just been unbelievable. It’s all new to me.”
The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa provided both Twitter updates and an article about Tootoo’s arrival (Tootoo had to pass a physical to officially become a Red Wing, too, and I’m assuming that he took said physical today):
Jordin Tootoo, who has aggravated the Red Wings and their fans for eight NHL seasons playing for the Predators, stood in the Red Wings dressing room, fresh from his first workout with the Wings, and pronounced himself prepared for the task at hand.
“Bottom line is, my foundation is being a physical presence out there, you know, crashing and banging,” said Tootoo, who now steps into a long line of Red Wings agitators that includes players like Ted Lindsay, Howie Young, Bryan Watson, Dino Ciccarelli, Steve Avery, Dallas Drake and Kirk Maltby “But, at the same time, I know I can play in different situation and, for me, it’s earning those situations, and knowing that if you come to work everyday and work hard, good things happen. And, I think over the last year and a half, everything’s just been really falling into place for me,” Tootoo said, referring to his recovery from problems with alcohol. I feel that I’m in the prime of my career, and this is the place where I feel we’re going to win the Stanley Cup.”
Tootoo, 29, has 46 goals and 79 assists in 486 career games, all with Nashville. He also has 725 penalty minutes. Last season, Tootoo set a career high with 24 assists.
It has been a few seasons since the Red Wings had a reliable agitator, and Tootoo presents the possibility of not only adding abrasiveness, but doing it with a player able to fulfill his responsibilities on regular shifts.
Tootoo said he is in town for “a short visit,” this time around, as he becomes acquainted with the team and begins looking for a new home. He will where his customary number, 22 — two, two.
Tootoo told Krupa that he’d been ice fishing in Nunavut recently, and dear Gord, we can only hope:
It is unlikely, however, that the woman in Nashville who continually toot-tooted a piercing whistle while he was on the ice, will travel to Detroit with him.
I’m guessing that WXYZ’s Brad Galli’s report will include some video at a later date...
The 29-year-old, joined the Red Wings two weeks ago, when he agreed to a three-year, $5.7 million contract only moments after free agency opened. The Wings appealed to Tootoo because of their history because he knows he can bring something to their lineup.
“Bottom line is, my foundation is being a physical presence out there, you know, crashing and banging,” said Tootoo to reporters.
Tootoo, spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Nashville Predators, where he became a fan favorite for his roughness. Tootoo, has 46 goals and 79 assists in his 486 game career. He also has 725 penalty minutes. In addition, last season, Tootoo set a career high with 24 assists.
The Wings saw him as an important asset to their plans to reshape themselves to be harder to play against in the forthcoming season. They have him slotted to play right wing on the third or fourth line.
Tootoo sees Detroit as a place to further his career. He said he has come a long way from December 2010, when he sought treatment for alcohol problems.
“And, I think over the last year and a half, everything’s just been really falling into place for me,” Tootoo said to reporters. “I feel that I’m in the prime of my career, and this is the place where I feel we’re going to win the Stanley Cup.”
The Canadian-native said he is in town only for “a short visit.” He told reporters he wanted to get acquainted with the organization and his new teammates. His plans for the rest of the afternoon was to find a place to live.
In the multimedia department, St. James posted a video of Tootoo speaking to the media…
As well as a shorter Q and A with Wings assistant GM Jim Nill:
Update: Also in the multimedia department, the Detroit News posted a Tootoo gallery, and the Free Press posted a “meet the New Wings gallery, and via RedWingsFeed, the Windsor Star posted a 1:13 video of Tootoo speaking to the press…
Here’s a really neat postscript: the Northern News Services’ Darrell Greer spoke to Rankin Inlet natives about Nunavut’s most famous hockey export signing with the Wings:
To many folks in Rankin, Tootoo playing with an Original 6 team is super cool and the community is allowing itself to dream of the day he lands in Rankin with Lord Stanley’s mug in tow. Warren Kusugak said he was shocked when he first heard the news Tootoo had signed with Detroit. He said he really thought Nashville would re-sign Tootoo, until he saw the announcement on Twitter the team was going to let him leave.
“After I saw that, I wasn’t really sure where Jordin would sign,” said Kusugak. “I didn’t think it would be Detroit, though, because of the real rivalry between those two teams. So that’s why I was shocked when I heard that’s where he signed, but I think he’s going to be a good fit there. Detroit’s a classy organization, big time, so Jordin should fit in pretty good there.”
Gabe Karlik said he was excited to hear Tootoo signed with Detroit. He said Detroit is a good organization with great ownership and a real family mentality, and that’s good for Tootoo.
“I really thought Jordin would sign with Detroit, Florida or Edmonton, if the Oilers made an offer,” said Karlik. “I didn’t really find his signing with Nashville’s main rival that strange because we’ve seen it before in sports with other teams. In baseball, Johnny Damon left the Red Sox to sign with the N.Y. Yankees, and Jason Giambi left the Oakland Athletics after their Moneyball year, when they won 20 straight games, to also sign with the rival Yankees.”
Steven Maktar and his family are known to be among the biggest Detroit Red Wings fans in the Kivalliq. Almost the entire family proudly displays the Detroit insignia on their parkas during Rankin’s winter months. Maktar said he was happy and excited when he first heard the news of Tootoo’s signing with Detroit. He said it’s pretty cool to know Tootoo will be playing with his favourite team during the next three NHL seasons.
“One thing, for sure, I expect to see a whole lot more Detroit flags, jerseys and logos in Rankin Inlet, and that makes me very happy,” said Maktar. “There hasn’t been many around, but that’s probably going to change now.”
“I watch a lot of Red Wings games during the season and it’s going to be even more fun with Jordin playing there. He can play on any line and he’s going to bring a lot to Detroit. Jordin’s still young and fast, and he’ll bring a lot more energy to their lineup. They (Detroit) have also lacked a little toughness the past two years and we all know Jordin will help them there too.”
Update #2: MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Tootoo as well…
“It’s going to take a little while to get used to, but the time is right for change,’’ Tootoo said. “So it’s an exciting time. This is an organization that has been very successful, and I feel that it’s the right fit for me and a great opportunity.’‘
His teammates certainly know what Tootoo is all about. The Red Wings needed to add more abrasiveness to their bottom six forwards.
“My foundation is being a physical presence, crashing and banging, but at the same time I know I can play in different situations,’’ Tootoo said. “For me, it’s earning those situations and knowing that if you come to work every day and work hard good things happen.’‘
He said his style of play is “in my blood.’‘
“I love my teammates. I play for them,’’ Tootoo said. “My ultimate goal is winning. I’m going to do whatever it takes. I’m fortunate to have that little spark in me that drives teams nuts. I think it’s going to be a great thing here.’‘
Tootoo had career highs in assists (24) and points (30) last season but was a healthy scratch in all but three playoff games. He believes he has more offense in him.
“I’m in the prime of my career,’’ Tootoo said. “When you have great people around you that are willing to teach you, anything’s possible. I’m really looking forward to these challenges. I know I’m going to have to earn every little bit. That’s part of my DNA, working for everything.’‘
There’s much more in Khan’s article about Tootoo’s background and status as a role model, but Tootoo wants everyone to know that he’s staying on top of his sobriety, too:
“For me, personally, I’ve been through a few issues,’’ Tootoo said. “I’ve been living a healthy lifestyle. When those things are looked after away from the game I think it really falls into how you play. I realized that and now I feel very comfortable in my own skin.’‘
Tootoo very specifically spoke about those issues with the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker:
The NHL’s first Inuit player, Tootoo, who calls Rankin Inlet home, voluntarily entered the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program on Dec. 27, 2010 and spent a month being treated for alcohol problems. Family members say it was due to an eight-year battle he had waged with alcohol following the death of his brother Terence Tootoo, who committed suicide in 2002 at age 22.
“I think, over the last year and a half, everything’s just been really falling into place for me,” Tootoo said. “It’s one day at a time and I’m looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead. I feel that I’m in the prime of my career and this is the place where I feel we we’re going to win the Stanley Cup.”
The five-foot-nine, 194-pound Tootoo spent eight seasons with the Nashville Predators before jumping to Central Division-rival Detroit. Coming off a career-high 30-point season in 77 games in 2011-12, the Red Wings inked him to a three-year deal for US$5.7 million on the first day of free agency.
“This world’s a tough world to live in,” Tootoo said. “I’ve been through a bit and I want people to know that anything’s possible. I’m just Jordin Tootoo, another guy trying to make a living and I love doing what I’m doing.”
Tootoo, who will wear No. 22 (two-two), has finished with more than 100 penalty minutes in four of his eight NHL seasons and has 725 minutes in 486 career games along with 46 goals and 125 points.
“I know I have to earn every little bit of ice time and that’s part of my DNA working for everything,” Tootoo said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of teams know my style. It’s just in my blood. I’m a guy who gets out there and works, love my teammates and play for them. I want to win and I’ll do whatever it takes to provide that little spark and drive teams nuts.”
Update #3: DetroitRedWings.com’s Andrea Nelson also penned a Tootoo story…
It’s an Original Six team and the history that’s gone on here is just, you can go down the list,” Tootoo said of why he’s looking forward to being a Red Wing. “I think for me, I’m just going to be me and come to work every day and I want to win a Stanley Cup. I feel that the opportunity here is as best as you’re going to get in the league.”
It was a day of firsts for Tootoo. He visited Detroit’s locker room, stood in front of his new locker and pulled the Red Wings jersey over his head for the first time. He looked right at home in red and white.
“First and foremost I’d just like to thank the organization for letting me come on board and as for expectations, every year you want to be the best you can,” Tootoo said. “Right now this is all new to me so it’s going to take a little while to get used to. But this is a time for me that I feel that’s right for change so it’s an exciting time of year.”
“The fan base that the Red Wings have is second to none,” Tootoo said. “Anywhere out on the road there are fans everywhere. I’m soaking it all in too so I don’t know really exactly what the fan base is until I experience it.”
The first time Tootoo experiences Detroit’s fan base will be during the season-opener against the Nashville Predators. Playing against his former team will be emotional, but Tootoo is a pure Red Wing now.
“It’s exciting,” Tootoo said of playing against Nashville. “I think it’s going to be a different feeling dressing on this side of the room but at the end of the day my job is to help the Red Wings win and I’m going to do whatever it takes. It’s all new to me, I don’t know until the moment happens and go from there.”
“I think over the last year and a half everything has just been really falling into place for me,” Tootoo said. “I feel that I’m in the prime of my career and this is the place that I feel we’re going to win a Stanley Cup.”
“[The Wings] know what kind of role I play, bottom line is my being a physical presence out there, crashing and banging, but at the same time I know I can play in different situations,” Tootoo said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of teams know my style and I think it’s just in my blood. I’m a guy who gets out there and works. I love my teammates. I play for them. My ultimate goal is winning. I’m going to do whatever it takes. I’m fortunate to have that little spark in me that drive’s teams nuts. I think it’s going to be a great thing here.”
“We wanted to get some physical play into our game,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said at the time of the signing. “We think he’ll provide an element of an edge to our team on the bottom six. He’s physical, he gets under your skin. It’s an ingredient we’ve always talked about.”
Tootoo is coming off a season where he set a career high for assists (24) and points (30).
“When you look after yourself both mentally and physically, everything falls into place,” Tootoo said. “For me, personally, I’ve been through a few issues. I’ve been living a healthy lifestyle. I think that just falls into place. When those things are looked after away from the game I think it really falls into how you play,” Tootoo continued. “I realized that and now I feel very comfortable in my own skin. The game just slowed down for me and I think that’s really helped.”
In December 2010, Tootoo voluntarily sought treatment for alcohol problems.
“It’s one day at a time,” Tootoo said. “For me, I’m looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. We don’t know what those are, but when you have a great group of guys in this dressing room – I played against a lot of these guys – I’ve heard nothing but great words about them. For me, I’m just going to be me and come to work every day,” Tootoo added. “I want to win a Stanley Cup. I feel the opportunity here is the best you’re going to get in the league. It’s one day at a time and enjoy every moment.”
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