By: Jordin Tootoo and Stephen Brunt
Original Source: espn.go.com
My buddy Troy was down from Rankin Inlet for what turned out to be my last night of drinking. Troy and I have been pretty much blood brothers since almost our first day of life; we were born two days apart. It’s kind of funny how it all went down. We were together the first time I tried booze as a kid, and he was the last person I partied with before I quit drinking.
That week we played on Saturday night and had Sunday off, which was always a recipe for hard drinking. Troy was going to be in town for a few more days, and so it was a green light for us to have at ‘er. The first night was pretty close to an all-nighter. Troy’s mom and girlfriend were staying at the condo and we came barging through the doors at four o’clock in the morning, all pissed up and causing a ruckus, waking everyone up.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
The next day, the Tennessee Titans were playing at noon, so we got up and said, “Let’s find some tailgate parties.”
Troy’s mom, who has always been there for us, was worried. She said, “Make sure you guys behave yourselves. I think you’re kind of out of control.”
Of course, we told her we were OK, even though we weren’t. We went to the football game and that turned into an all-day drinking event. Then, in the evening, Garth Brooks was playing at the arena and we had a mandatory team function there; I had to show up. We went to the Gaylord Center and, of course, we were three sheets to the wind by then. We got to the concert and Troy and I were stumbling around looking like idiots. Then, after the concert, we decided to go out again. It was turning into almost a forty-eight-hour binge. Troy and I ended up going out downtown. He finally called his girlfriend to come and pick us up. She basically had to carry us into the taxi and get us home.
The next day I got up, went to practice, and played what most hockey players call “guilty hockey” — where you work extra hard to try to show that you weren’t really out the night before. After practice, [Predators GM] David Poile called me into his office to explain a phone call he’d received the day before. I think what happened was that a few of the workers in the Gaylord Center saw me and told someone that Tootoo was out of control, and word got back to Poile.
I was still hung to the gills and I reeked of booze. I was thinking, What the f— did I do now? — and I really didn’t know. I tried to trace events back to Saturday night, but I had no clue. I had been so drunk I’d blacked out. Of course, the first thing I did was deny any wrongdoing. I said that it hadn’t been me. I played the “popular” card. It had been at a team party and of course I was singled out of the twenty guys that were having a good time, because people know who I am.
Poile had heard all of that too many times before, and he wasn’t buying it anymore. He gave me an ultimatum. He said, “If you don’t accept what we’re offering you, we’ve got to let you go. You’re damaging our team. You have to enter the NHLPA substance abuse program and go into rehab or we’re going to cut you, and everyone will know why.”
Right then and there, I decided I wasn’t going to fight it anymore. I said, “F—, I’m done. Let’s go.”
I haven’t had a drink since. Not one.
I didn’t tell Troy what had happened, though he knew I was in some kind of trouble. I didn’t tell a f—— soul. On December 20, I went to a facility in Nashville to have what they called an assessment. I told Troy that I had a meeting and had to leave for a few hours, but I didn’t tell him where I was going. But I think he knew something was going down.
We played our next game on December 23 and I just went about my business without saying a thing. We played on December 26 in St. Louis. Nobody knew that I was going to get shipped out. I played on December 26 and kept my cool. I played, like, seventeen f—— minutes. On December 27, I had breakfast with Troy and his family, and then they went to the airport to fly home. That afternoon, I shipped out.
I didn’t have a drink during that period. I didn’t want to touch alcohol. It wasn’t like, I’m going to rehab, so I want to get trashed one last time. I was done.
After my meeting with Poile, he had contacted the National Hockey League Players’ Association, and they had taken care of the arrangements through their substance abuse program. My contact was a guy named Dan Cronin. They sent a chaperone to pick me up and make sure I didn’t miss my flight. I was thinking I was going to be away for a month, so I’d better buy an iPad and download a bunch of movies and some games — stuff to keep me busy while I was at this facility. The chaperone took me to the Apple Store and said, “Get whatever you need, no problem.” So I spent $2,000 on stuff. “No problem,” he said. “No problem.” I had no idea where I was going until I got to the airport and the chaperone put me on a plane to Los Angeles.
The only people who knew what was going on were Poile and [coach Barry]Trotz. Not even my family or teammates knew. The team held a press conference that afternoon in Nashville, but only after I’d jumped on the plane. I went into the program with an open mind. I wasn’t in denial. I didn’t fight it. I knew it was time and that I had to do it, for me personally and to save my career.
While Jordin was on the plane to Los Angeles, the Predators’ coach and general manager informed the other players that he had gone into rehab. Then the team sent out a short, vague press release that revealed no details about Jordin’s treatment. “We offer Jordin the full support of his teammates, coaches and the organization,” said David Poile. “There is no timetable for his return and we will have no further comment at this time.” But now the story was out.
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