Predators right wing Jordin Tootoo, the first player of Inuit descent to compete in the NHL. The 5'9", 190-pound Tootoo, who hails from Canada's sparsely populated Nunavut territory, about 200 miles below the Arctic Circle (SI, Aug. 18), stepped onto the ice 59 seconds into the Predators' home opener, accompanied by wild cheering from about 40 friends and family members (as well as Nunavut premier Paul Okalik), who had traveled more than 2,000 miles to see him. "I just didn't want to trip over the boards coming out," said Tootoo. He played 13:34—someone ran through the stands waving the Nunavut flag during each of his 21 shifts—and drew a late penalty that helped Nashville seal a 3-1 win over the Mighty Ducks. "I held him back a little," said Predators coach Barry Trotz, "but he's going to get more ice time. He's an energetic, catalyst-type player."
Tootoo, 20, spent his youth harpooning seals and whales for food and is known for his scrappiness. In Nashville's second game, against the Stars, he jumped into a scrum at the final buzzer and threw a punch at Dallas defense-man Richard Matvichuk, who is 6'2" and 215 pounds. "Jordin doesn't fear challenges," says Trotz, "and he doesn't fear opponents."
Canadian media trailed Tootoo through much of the preseason-quizzing him about such things as how sushi at Nashville restaurants compares with the raw Arctic char he eats at home. When he secured a roster spot on Oct. 6, it made national news. "We were doing an autograph session, and people and reporters were swarming him," says Predators forward Jim McKenzie. "He looked at me and shrugged and said, Tm just another guy trying to make it to the NHL.' It was almost like he didn't know what the fuss was. I told him, Jordin, we all come from somewhere, but we don't all come from where you're from."