Having grown up in Nunavut, Jordin Tootoo is well-versed in cold weather. Add to that a successful 13-year NHL career, which included 65 goals and tenures with the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, and Chicago Blackhawks, and it becomes even more clear that he knows all about icy temps. As a result, Canada Goose reached out to the retired pro athlete to help them test two new pairs of boots—the Snow Mantra Boot and the Journey Boot—they’re launching as part of their first footwear collection. “I was honoured to be one of those gear testers,” he says.
Since his retirement in 2018, Tootoo has kept busy with his extensive charity work and community outreach in various Indigenous communities across Canada. As the first player of Inuk descent in NHL history, Tootoo admits he didn’t feel any additional pressure in representing his community at the time—“I was just a kid who wanted to play hockey,” he says—but he’s since understood the impact of his history-making career on Indigenous youth.
Now, as one of the famous faces of Canada Goose’s latest campaigns, the former NHL star chatted with us about his hockey career, charity work with Indigenous youth, and what he’s been up to since hanging up his skates.
Canada Goose is launching their first-ever footwear collection. Having grown up in Nunavut, you know how harsh Canadian winters can be, and I’m sure you’ve gone through countless pairs of boots in your lifetime. What was it about these boots, in particular, that you loved based on your own previous experiences?
Winters in Nunavut are usually harsh and unpredictable, so I’ve learned how important it is to have the proper gear—jacket, footwear, hats and gloves. I was excited for Canada Goose to launch footwear because of their history and expertise in making warm products. I knew their expansion into footwear would be a fit for my lifestyle.
Canada Goose gear tests many of its products prior to launch, taking the feedback they receive into the final design. For footwear, Canada Goose worked with men and women around the world, including global adventurers, scientists and entertainment industry professionals to put their boots to the ultimate test. I was honoured to be one of those gear testers. I got to feel out and wear the boots during the set of the footwear campaign that we shot in British Columbia.
How would you describe your own fashion sense, in five words or less?
I wear what is comfortable and, to be honest, as long as its functionable it’s perfect.
What’s your favourite piece of clothing or accessory that you own?
While living in B.C. the top pick is my Canada Goose rain jacket that keeps me dry in the worst of conditions. It’s super lightweight and very high quality; I often use it to help shield my wife’s hair in the rain!
You were the first Inuk to play in the NHL. Did this make you feel any additional pressure in terms of representing your community?
I did not feel the pressure at the time. I really did not see myself as a representative of my community. I was just a kid who wanted to play hockey. It has only been since my retirement that I have understood the importance of my voice to help Indigenous youth through suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
“I remember being in a northern Indigenous community and an elder came to me after my speaking engagement to tell me his son had been at the event and had decided to enter rehab after hearing me talk. This brought tears to my eyes.”
How was your overall experience both on and off the ice?
The bonding that takes place on a team sport is like no other experience. I will always cherish the time spent with my teammates and the camaraderie that we shared on and off the ice.
After so many seasons in the NHL and having played on a few different teams over the years, is there one moment that stands out as the highlight of your career?
Nothing will ever compare to the experience of representing my country in the World Junior Hockey Championship [in 2003].
You’re known for your extensive charity work and community outreach work with Indigenous communities. What has been your proudest moment so far with the work you do?
The moments that really stick out to me are when I hear, after an event, that my words have helped someone who was struggling. The work I do now is to help people in my community that are stuck [to] see a better way forward. I am always humbled when I hear that my words have impacted them in a positive way. I remember being in a northern Indigenous community and an elder came to me after my speaking engagement to tell me his son had been at the event and had decided to enter rehab after hearing me talk. This brought tears to my eyes. Another moment of great pride for me was when I recently visited Alert Bay [in British Columbia]. It was incredible to see the pride the community felt in its Indigenous heritage and the way they were able to showcase this with pure joy. That trip is one I will remember all my life.
Beyond establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Day, what other measures would you like to see Canada do for the Indigenous community?
It is not my place to tell people what should or should not be done. Instead, I will strive to be the best version of myself as an example to others.
Outside of your considerable charity work, what else have you been up to since you retired from the NHL in 2018?
Most of my time is spent being the best father and husband I can be. But I’m also happy to be working on my second book and working with some great people who are creating a documentary about my life story. When I’m not working on these projects, I like to get away on a fishing trip with friends to just be in nature and recharge.