Friday, February 1, 2013

Why is Jordin Tootoo fighting important to this Red Wings team?

     As I mentioned in my last post, I was nervous going into the game against Dallas. I had a crappy day, too much work and stress and not enough sleep combined to put me in a less than happy mood, and by the time I got home from work (just missing the first Tootoo fight). I was full of piss and vinegar (figuratively speaking of course) and maybe the Wings were as well.

     We beat Dallas 4-1, scored a Powerplay goal (even if it was on a 5-3), we had shots on goal, and didn't lose any more players to injury (Todd Bertuzzi almost lost his eye but he seems to be ok). I put this game in the success column for sure.

     In only 6 games in a Wings jersey, Jordin Tootoo has become a fan favorite, I don't think there's any denying it. I'm surprised how quickly he went from being hated by many Red Wings fans to being cheered on the ice, spoken of with admiration and respect, and endearing himself to his teammates and the fans. I'm probably in the majority with my "we just did WHAT!?" reaction when I first heard we signed Tootoo. I thought we'd have to reluctantly cheer for him because he's on our team now, but I wasn't sure I'd ever really "like" him. Weeellll... here we are seven months later and I'm probably still in the majority when I say I really like Tootoo and what he brings to this team. Against my will, he's won me over and there are some very important reasons why. First, I wasn't very familiar with Tootoo's off ice life before the Wings signed him, but I did some research after July 1st, and the more complete image of Tootoo I understood, the more I respected him. In 2002 Jordin's older brother committed suicide after a drunk driving arrest and in 2010 Jordin voluntarily entered the NHLPA's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, completed it and returned to the NHL to finish the season. What's commendable about Tootoo is what he's done as a result of his issues, struggles and mistakes. Team Tootoo Fund supports and donates to nonprofits addressing suicide awareness and prevention, as well as nonprofits supporting children and teens in need. Jordin also doesn't pretend his past didn't happen, he's worked hard to make himself better because of it his attitude and outlook makes me proud. So even before the lockout started, Tootoo started to win me over.

     That's all well and good Michelle, but what about Tootoo's benefit to the Wings? Oh, I'm so glad you asked because I'm really excited about this part. We've all heard the reasons why the Wings signed Tootoo, with catchy words like "sandpaper" and "grit", and we've clearly seen that Tootoo willing to, and even enjoys, dropping the gloves. I love fighting in Hockey, I love the excitement, the entertainment and I love to see how it energizes the team, but there area bout a quintillion articles out there right now about those things, so I won't write another one. I'm a "why" kind of person. I don't just want to know how to do something or what needs to be done, I need to know why. I ask a lot of questions, and the question I found myself asking the last few days is "Why does Jordin Tootoo fighting make this team better?"

     During the game against the Stars, there was a moment where one of the Stars players got into a little shoving match with Jonathan Ericsson, and Jordin Tootoo came to the festivities and was clearly willing to stick up for Ericsson. My friend Nick commented that of all the people Tootoo may need to stick up for or defend, Ericsson isn’t one, and I agree; Ericsson is a big boy and he can take care of himself. Despite the slightly comical nature of a 5'9" 199lb Tootoo coming to stick up for a 6'4" 221lb Ericsson, I still love that Tootoo has the willingness (maybe even desire) to stick up for any teammate, even if they don’t necessarily need it. I love fighting in Hockey, but the results of Jordin Tootoo fighting and sticking up for teammates goes way beyond just the fight itself, there’s so much more that results than just a scrap on the ice and penalties or even the momentum and energy gained by the team immediately on the ice. Jordin Tootoo's attitude is a crucial part of team chemistry and bonding, and something that has been missing from the Red Wings the last few years. When you know someone will stick up for you and take on someone twice their size to defend you or your honor, it does something.. It forms bonds, acts as a cohesive and brings the team together… It helps unify the players into a team and that’s essential. It seems like in last couple years, watching the Red Wings has been watching a lot of really talented Hockey players play Hockey, but it's just felt like something has been missing. I'm not saying the players didn't get along, or weren't working together as a team, but it just felt like there was still something missing.

     There's something unifying about knowing that a teammate has your back, not just in words, but in action. The attitude of "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us" acts like glue and holds the team together in an essential way that nothing else can. Need I remind anyone of Darren McCarty getting retribution against Claude Lemieux for his assault on Kris Draper? Do you remember the feelings you get inside when you watch the video again and everything about it just feels right and just?

How many of us were livid that no one went after Shea Weber right after he punched Henrik Zetterberg and then proceeded to smash his head into the glass during game one of the playoffs last year?

How many of us jumped up and cheered when Bertuzzi fought Weber in game 2?

It wasn't a great fight because of the action, Bert didn't obliterate Weber in the manner McCarty did Lemeiux, but Bertuzzi fought Weber for Zetterberg's honor. We only won one game in that series, and I'll be damned if the game we won wasn't game two. Coincidence? Not on your life. Babcock's comments after the game told me that he knows the psychology of what makes a team. Babcock is a very smart man.

“I think it is an important part of hockey,” he said. “We are built different from lots of teams. I just thought that the incident the other night wasn’t part of hockey. I hadn’t seen it since junior hockey. I thought it was unacceptable. I think sometimes when things don’t get looked after, you have to look after it yourself. And I didn’t things were looked after at all.

“He had to do the right thing and he did. I thought it was important for our team that that happened. I kind of expected that’s what was going to happen and it did, so good for him.”
Stats, numbers, skill and talent are important, but the psychological aspect of the game is easy to overlook. Each of the players are still human, and the intangibles sometimes have a bigger impact that we think. Mark my words, this team is going to develop great chemistry and is going to start firing on all cylinders soon. I’m really excited.

Let's Go Red Wings!!!

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