His brother’s suicide note said only this: “Jor, go all the way. Take care of the family. You’re the man. Terence.”
For Jordin Tootoo, it was the crossroads of his career. He’d either quit hockey right then and there, or heed his brother’s last words to him and continue on to become the first Inuk to play in the NHL.
This is what frames All the Way: My Life on Ice, which was released today. It’s the mid-career memoir of Tootoo, a tough-as-nails, built-like-a-brick fighter who, against all odds, reached hockey’s highest summit from the small village of Rankin Inlet in Nunavut.
The book’s bountiful f-bombs, derivatives and an assortment other colorful metaphors give it the raw, bare bones feel of being in a bar listening to Tootoo tell his story. Except he’s not drinking. Nearly four years removed from a mid-season stint in rehab, Tootoo is still sober, following more than a decade heavy drinking and all the debauchery and demons that ensued.
The big news in the prospect world right now concerns the class-action lawsuit filed against the CHL and without going into too much detail, I think this could have a dramatic effect on junior hockey. With profits and losses so extreme across the continent, I believe a minimum wage policy would have to be supported by revenue sharing. But let’s get back on the ice, shall we? Because that’s what The Hot List is, a round-up of the kids we can’t wait to see in the NHL one day.
The year has just begun, but already we’ve seen more than our fair share of surprises. Here’s your top-five before we enter the second Saturday of the season:
5. Gustav Nyquist continues to shoot out the lights
After the summer of Advanced Statistics, it would have been fitting if Red Wings’ sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist’s shooting percentage fell off.
In 2013-14, Nyquist shot an outrageous 18.3 percent and proprietors of so-called fancy stats said he was due for regression. You wouldn’t have gotten much disagreement from anyone about that, either. Extrapolated over an entire year, that would have been nearly 40 goals for the Swede.
So far – and yes, it has only been four games – Nyquist has already potted four goals on 11 shots, good for a 36.4 shooting percentage. Certainly, he’s due to regress to somewhere near the league average of somewhere between 8.5 to 9 per cent, but when? If he keeps this up, he might be throwing his name into the ring for the Rocket Richard. Read more
The Nashville Predators had been a pretty consistent playoff team, despite the fact the franchise rarely had an elite forward in the lineup. But that dearth of scoring seemed to catch up to them the past two seasons and the Preds found themselves on the outside looking in.
This year, Nashville has a new coach in Peter Laviolette and to outsiders, it seemed like a good choice based on style: Laviolette is known as a coach who can coax goals out of his team. But according to the Predators, they don’t want to get too far away from their bread and butter; the staunch defensive club created by former bench boss Barry Trotz.
NBA superstar LeBron James returning home to Cleveland sparked speculation this summer in the Toronto media suggesting Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos could do the same and sign with the Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2016.
The Leafs lack a homegrown star, and Stamkos would be a natural fit. Responding to questions about the possibility, the 24-year-old sniper inadvertently added fuel to the fire by replying, “We’ll see what happens.” However, Stamkos recently clarified his comments, saying he definitely wants to win with the Lightning. Read more
Take a look at Nashville Predators blueline depth chart. If your eyes bug out of your head, you’re forgiven.
The defense corps’ present and future are blindingly bright. Shea Weber, the game’s most complete player at his position, leads the way, usually paired with rapidly improving, well-rounded Roman Josi. A phenom named Seth Jones joined the fray last year, making the team as a teenager months after Nashville took him fourth overall. Big, steady Swede Mattias Ekholm looks like he’s an NHLer for good after a few years marinating in the American League. And GM David Poile added bruising veteran Anton Volchenkov on a one-year deal this off-season.
Rounding out that top six is the somewhat forgotten man: Ryan Ellis. Amid the headlines in recent years stolen by Ryan Suter’s departure, Weber’s offer sheet and Jones’ arrival, Ellis has faded into the background. Perhaps that’s why, at first glance, a five-year deal paying him $2.5 million annually seems like a lot, more so in term than cap hit. Ellis? Five years? Did he deserve it?
You know the injury epidemic in the NHL is getting really bad when the mascots start going down. Not to be outdone by the likes of Derek Stepan and Jordan Staal, Gnash of the Nashville Predators is out six-to-eight weeks with a broken fibula in his left leg. Really. The team announced that.
Now normally, news of a mascot on the sidelines would be welcomed by your trusty correspondent. Spoiler alert: I’m a middle-aged white guy. And as such, I see mascots as an annoying waste of fabric. From the San Diego Chicken to Youppi! – abominations one and all. When two of them get into a fight at a college football game, I’m cheering for both of them to get beaten up. I admired Craig MacTavish when he pulled Harvey the Hound’s tongue out a few years back. I laughed out loud about 20 years ago when an ECHL player whom I believe was coached by Chris McSorley, went after the opposing team’s mascot in the stands because it kept hitting him with a pair of inflatable lips. “Our coach gave me the green light to go after their mascot,” was his explanation. Gold. Read more
While Ryan Johansen’s contentious contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets dominate NHL headlines, several other notable young players around the league also remain unsigned.
Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug and right winger Reilly Smith still await new deals. CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty reports it’s believed Krug and the Bruins have agreed to a one-year bridge term for this season but remain around $750,000 apart. Haggerty speculates Smith also received a one-year offer.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli undoubtedly would’ve preferred re-signing the duo before training camp opened last week, but, as has been well documented, the Bruins lack sufficient cap space to comfortably re-sign the duo.
It’s anticipated Chiarelli will make a trade before the start of the season to free up the necessary space. Until then, Krug and Smith remain in contractual limbo, unable to participate in training camp. Read more