Q. In the past you’ve made comments about the issue of respect in regards to the Leafs and your free agent status. Please shed some light on this.
A. I think respect is about how you treat people. You treat people how you want to be treated. That’s what my father taught me when I was growing up. This was the first time I was an unrestricted free agent. Everybody holds that as the trump card in their career, but I just felt I wasn’t really enjoying it as much as I thought I would. It was more of a stressful time for me and after the CUJO situation, I really thought I was going to go too. I was pretty disappointed when he went because I’m close friends with him. Ultimately I had to make the decision that was right for me as a person.
Q. What is T.D.G?
A. It’s my own marketing, advertising and communications company. I’m involved with three other companies as well, but TDG is my own.Q. So you have some roots here?A. Yeah. It’s not like I only started this in the last few years. My business ventures started when I was 19 years old because I didn’t always know I was going to be a hockey player. I was always’ told I was too small, I wasn’t tough enough, I couldn’t play, I wasn’t good enough. So I said, `God, if I don’t make it in hockey, I better be doing something else’ – and I didn’t want to listen to anybody. I wanted to be my own boss. That’s how ^all these business ventures got started and a lot of them have turned into pretty good things and fun things. It was about living a normal life like everybody else, but also having the opportunity to become a hockey player – but that wasn’t a guarantee.
Q. What made you the tough guy?
A. I’ve been a professional hockey player now for 13 years, but when I first started I wasn’t guaranteed to make the NHL -just like everybody else. I made it there because of my toughness. That’s what got me into the NHL and I would hate to have to tell my kids that now. My kids are in school and their friends say things like, "Oh, your dad’s the tough guy" or "Your dad fought last night". That’s a big change in my life. My kids are in Grade 4, grade 2, and kindergarten. It’s different now that they are older and know what’s going on when they see me on TV. Before I only had to worry about whether or not the babysitter had made sure to change the station if I was in a fight. Now my son’s a hockey fanatic and loves to watch me play. When I get into an altercation on the ice, he now has answers for it like, "My dad was out there because that guy hit Mats Sundin." He’s starting to understand why, but he still wonders why I’m doing it. Why I’m one of the only guys to do it? I’m not the biggest guy on the team, so why do I have to fight the biggest guy on the other team? These are the kinds of things I have to explain to my son. It’s tough to be a father and have to explain to your kids that you’re doing something that you’re telling them not to do themselves. It’s definitely not easy at this stage of my career. I think I’ve proven to people over the last five years that I am a well-rounded player. That’s always been my goal. I always believed it myself it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to show everybody that I could do it. I finally got that opportunity.
Q. Do people look at you more as a hockey player than a businessman?
A. When I sit in a meeting with a group of CEO’s or the VP of Marketing etc., they sometimes look at me as only a hockey player. When I start talking to them about the business side of things, they begin to take me seriously. They get over the `that guy plays hockey’ feeling .
Q. You say that with a level of understanding…
A. Oh, yeah. It’s happened throughout my entire business career. I’ve learned to deal with it and I’ve learned to use humour to make people feel more comfortable. A lot of people only think of me as Tie Domi the hockey player. No, I’m Tie Domi the person first. I’m Tie Domi the father and I’m also Tie Domi the businessman. But I’m also Tie Domi who has a passion for the game and plays hockey for his livelihood. Everybody thinks hockey is my life. Hockey is not my life. It’s just my livelihood. I love it and have a passion for it. You know when I’ll stop playing? When I don’t have that passion anymore. I want to retire on my terms. I don’t want to be told when I have to retire. I’ll walk to my offices and continue my life. I’m well prepared for life after hockey, whatever year that will be. It’s not like I’m going to sit there and say, `Oh man, I wish…’ I don’t want to do that. I see too many guys struggle throughout their careers, bitter at the game. The game gives a lot of players a good living, a good life, and their families good lives. It has given me everything I have. It has given me my name out there in the marketplace. It’s helped me – I’m not going to hold anything back here about it helping me in my business. There’s no doubt that it has.
Q. Outside of hockey, is there anything else you are really crazy about?
A. I’m crazy about every sport. When I was young I was a kicker in football, as well as a running back and line backer – but my number one sport from the age of four was soccer. I didn’t start hockey until I was 10 years old. I’m just a sports fanatic. My favorite all-time athlete is John McEnroe.
Q.Really? It’s interesting you say that, because if you look at the character of McEnroe there’s a character relationship there. Don’t you think so?
A. What type of athlete are you if you don’t hate losing? Nobody likes to lose. On the other hand, there’s a fine line between doing what you have to do to win, and doing something to make a point to get respect – even when you’re losing. I love McEnroe because if you notice, even when he’s losing he’ll get angry and try anything and everything to win.
Q. How would you describe yourself?
A. I’m just a loyal guy. That’s it in a nutshell. I’m pretty guarded when it comes to choosing my friends. I have been for a long time. I have a good group of friends around me, most of them older than me. I’ve learned to become a better father. I’m happy – my kids make me happy.
Q. So what now? What will 2003 bring for the city, for your life, for the future?
A.I’ll do the same thing. Work hard every night. Play hard every night. Try to just be a little piece of the puzzle. Hopefully at the end, we get a better result. Also, take care of my teammates. But I won’t just do it for the sake of doing it anymore, like people used to expect me to do. If I do that, I won’t play. Pat won’t play me if I do it to impress fans or for personal reasons. He wants me to play hard and only take care of my teammates when I have to. That will give me an opportunity to play more. We cannot accept losing anymore. We’ve been to the semi-finals 4 out of 5 years, but haven’t won a championship. That’s what we want to do.
By Stir Media Inc.