Jordin Tootoo’s life in the fast lane: booze, women, hockey

Ronnie Shuker
Jordin Tootoo Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

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.

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The NHL should suspend convicted domestic violence abusers for life

Adam Proteau
Slava Voynov (Dave Sandford/NHL)

The NHL gets a good deal of criticism from this corner, but giving the league credit where due has never been an issue. And when it came down swiftly in regard to domestic violence charges against Slava Voynov – suspending the L.A. Kings defenseman indefinitely – the NHL did exactly what was required. Voynov will have his day in court to defend himself, but the league cannot permit anyone in its employ to remain on the job while accused of such a heinous offense. And although it’s the NHL Players’ Association’s duty to represent its members, it’s difficult to envision them not working with team owners to craft more punitive measures for those players who hurt women.

That said, this new case of domestic violence should show the NHL that, contrary to what commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this month – “our players know what’s right and wrong” – it isn’t immune from any societal ill. There’s nothing separating NHLers from any other demographic. They are not inherently better than any other group of athletes or people walking the face of the earth. And that’s why they need to be informed, in the strongest possible terms, that under no circumstances will they be permitted to strike a woman without severe consequences befalling them.

How does the league achieve that? A lifetime ban for a first convicted offense would get players’ attention and send a message to women that they are respected as equals and are deserving of basic human dignities and protections. Read more

Jonathan Drouin’s debut spells the beginning of a Calder campaign

Jared Clinton
Halifax Mooseheads v Drummondville Voltigeurs

When Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning strolled into Edmonton’s Rexall Place to take on the Oilers last night, they had a fresh face in the lineup: 2013 third-overall pick Jonathan Drouin.

Drouin, who coach Jon Cooper had earlier said would not be making his debut until later in the Lightning’s Western road trip, likely would have made the Lightning right out of training camp had his preseason derailed by a slight fracture of the thumb on his right hand which sidelined the much-talked about rookie for nearly four weeks. Late last week, the Lightning and Drouin made a bit of news with his activation and subsequent transfer to the American League’s Syracuse Crunch for a conditioning stint.

It didn’t take long for Drouin to make his mark on the professional ranks, scoring on an absolute laser of a wrist shot in the third period of his AHL debut.

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Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens supports mental health via special masks

Adam Proteau
Ben Scrivens (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Ben Scrivens is one of the more conscientious NHLers of his generation, so it was entirely within character to see the Oilers netminder stand up for mental health Monday by announcing he’d wear a series of goalie masks to raise awareness of the issue.

Scrivens’ “Ben’s Netminders” program, in support of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, is providing a platform for four local artists diagnosed with schizophrenia to design a goalie mask for him that touches on the disease. The masks will be auctioned off to raise funds for the organization – and the first artist selected, Richard Boulet, stressed the words “empathy” and “hope” on his version: Read more

This is the biggest, strangest hit of the year

Matt Larkin
BigHit

Note the headline. It ain’t hyperbole. And to throw around “biggest hit of the year” is bold in October.

But this WWE-inspired body blast by Kristaps Zile earns such high scores in brutality, creativity and originality that it’ll be tough to top. The hit happened in an MHL (the Kontinental League’s junior circuit) game last Friday. Zile, an HK Riga defenseman, laid a hip check on Lukas Pozgay of HC Red Bull. Pozgay made the mistake of holding on for dear life, and Zile proceeded to carry Pozgay several meters before stapling him to the boards, as forcefully as you would a particularly thick document. Here’s the unstoppable finishing move, complete with death metal:

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Power Rankings: Ducks flock to familiar perch at No. 1

Ken Campbell
Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks almost certainly don’t put a whole lot of stock into Power Rankings, nor should they. They started and ended last season at the top of thn.com’s Power Rankings and what did it get them? An overabundance of bupkis when it came to cashing in that currency against the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs.

But here we go again and here go the Ducks again. After losing their first game of the season, the Ducks have knocked down five straight en route to opening this season as the No. 1 team in our Power Rankings. Since this is our first installment of the year, last season’s final ranking will be in parentheses. In the future, the previous week’s ranking will appear. Read more

T.J. Brodie more than doubles his salary, but it’s a bargain for the Flames

Brian Costello
Calgary Flames v Chicago Blackhawks

The Calgary Flames locked up the game’s top-scoring defenseman for another five seasons, and by the time the deal kicks in next season, it might look like a huge bargain.

T.J. Brodie, who is tied with Victor Hedman and Brent Burns atop the NHL defensemen scoring parade with seven points, signed a five-year contract with the Flames worth $4.65 million annually ($23.25 million total). Brodie, 24, is in the second-year of a two-year bridge-deal that pays him $2.125 million. He would have been a restricted free agent next July.

For those who don’t watch the Flames on a regular basis, Brodie and defense partner Mark Giordano have been the team’s best players the past couple of seasons. ‘Brodano’, as they’re referred to, match up against the opponent’s top line, are on the first power play unit, play upwards of 25 minutes per game and boast strong possession and zone entry numbers.

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Frederik Andersen makes history, wins Ducks’ No. 1 goalie job

Matt Larkin
Frederik Andersen is off to one of the greatest starts to a career of any goalie in league history. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

So much for the Anaheim Ducks’ goaltending controversy.

Entering training camp, no one knew much about Anaheim’s plans in net. We did know unrestricted free agent Jonas Hiller was a goner, but that was pretty much it. The Ducks were blessed with John Gibson, the NHL’s top goaltending prospect and No. 2 overall prospect according to THN Future Watch, and Frederik Andersen, a less-heralded but highly effective Dane who flourished in his rookie year. It was anyone’s guess as to who would win the starting job in 2014-15. The long-term edge seemed to be Gibson’s, considering his pedigree and the fact Bruce Boudreau had enough confidence in Gibson to toss him into a Game 7 against the L.A. Kings.

But things haven’t gone exactly as expected between Anaheim’s pipes in this young season – and it’s actually great news for the Ducks.

John Gibson, 21, wasn’t ready for a Game 7 last spring, and he didn’t look ready for a No. 1 job in the NHL in his first start this fall, a six-goal clobbering, albeit it came against Pittsburgh.

And then there’s Andersen. The towering Dane, 25, has been the mightiest of Ducks, starting the season 5-0-0 and allowing just seven goals, producing a 1.38 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. He’s made some serious history, too. Andersen is now 25-5-0 to start his career, which makes him just the second stopper in NHL history to win 25 of his first 30 decisions. The other was Boston’s Ross Brooks, who opened 25-2-3 from October 1972 to February 1974.

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