By David Satriano – NHL.com
NEW YORK — Tie Domi played in more than 1,000 games during his 16-year NHL career. He learned more than a few lessons along the way.
In his new book, “Shift Work,” Domi discusses his difficult road to the NHL, life in the League and what it was like to be a tough guy, as well as the lessons he’s learned on and off the ice.
Domi was known for dropping the gloves; he says he took part in 333 fights during his career. Many of them came when he was protecting his team’s best players, including Mark Messier of the New York Rangers, Teemu Selanne of the Winnipeg Jets and Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs, all of whom are still close friends of his.
“That was my role. I protected guys,” he said. “As a father, I see my son, and I protected guys like him when I was playing.”
Tie’s son, Max Domi, is in his rookie season with the Arizona Coyotes. Selected in the first round (No. 12) of the 2013
NHL Draft, Max was sent back to junior hockey twice before cracking the Coyotes roster this season. Through 13 games, he has five goals and 11 points.
Max’s offensive production is no surprise to his dad, who said his son has worked extremely hard.
Max Domi was one of Canada’s final cuts from its 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship team. But he made the team in 2015, led Canada to the gold medal and was named most valuable player with five goals and 10 points in seven games.
“There were a few times in his life where I know he was leaning on me. When he got cut from the World Junior team in 2014, we had a serious heart-to-heart,” Tie Domi said. “He had a right to be disappointed, but at the same time, I knew he’d figure it out. At the end of the day, I kept telling him your play is the other thing that does the talking.
“For me, it was my toughness. Totally opposite of Max. I took care of the best players in the world and he’s always wanted to be the best. As an ex-player and his father, the thing I like the most is that I haven’t seen him take a shift off and he knows how to win since he’s been a kid. I’m glad the country got to witness what I watched throughout his whole life; not taking a shift off and being able to win during the 2015 World Juniors was a pretty surreal moment.”
Tie has been there the whole way for his son, from youth hockey peewee to the Ontario Hockey League to the NHL. He attends as many of Max’s games as he can.
“I only missed one in the first nine because I wanted to see him live,” he said. “Watching him and seeing how he’s figured the game out is the important thing. When he needs me, he asks. He’s figured it out on his own.”
In addition to seeing Max score a goal in his NHL debut against the Los Angeles Kings, Domi was on hand in Toronto, where he spent much of his NHL career as a player, when Max and the Coyotes came to town on Oct. 26. It was a special moment for each. Max scored a goal less than seven minutes into the Coyotes’ 4-3 victory.
“His first game at Air Canada Centre was really cool,” Domi said. “He came out on the ice for warmups and none of his teammates were behind him but he kept doing his thing. Then he scored on his first shift, his first shot. He’s got the sense of humor and likes to have fun. I think he’s enjoying being a rookie.”
Domi played the final 10 seasons of his career with the Maple Leafs (1996-2006). They qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for six straight seasons (1998-2004) but have made it once in the past 10 seasons.
Domi said Mike Babcock, who was hired as coach in May, is the right man for the job of reviving the Maple Leafs.
“They have the best coach in the world. The one thing I can tell you that I know, and whether you like him or not, I’ve never seen a coach that if you play hard for him every shift, he’s never going to dislike you or be unhappy,” Domi said. “All you can do is give it your all every shift. That’s all you can control. If those guys do that, play hard every shift, Babcock will be happy.
“And now it’s all about getting players in there, rebuilding. It’s up to the people picking those players to rebuild. That’s really what Babcock has to rely on, and I think the accountability part is going to be something Toronto hasn’t had since Pat Quinn and Pat Burns. … I think once those players get a taste of [the playoffs], they’re never going to want to lose because that’s what it’s all about, the playoffs.”
Domi, 46, also said he thinks he would thrive in the NHL under the current rules.
“I wish I was playing now,” he said. “I can skate. The guys used to say I could build a teepee in front of the net because no one would touch me, so imagine me playing now. I’d love it. I won the fastest skater competition for the Maple Leafs a few times. I was able to play and get on the forecheck. I could’ve been a really good forechecker who could score the odd goal.”
Off the ice, Domi got to know everyone from the security guards to parking attendants to TSA agents to hotel workers at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, where he often stayed and had his book launch. Domi remembers every one of their names and always stops to talk and ask about them and their families.
“More importantly, [the book is about] life after my career, and I said I want it to be a positive book,” he said at the launch event last week. “Treat people how you want to be treated. Old-school values. I wanted to talk about how what I see every day bothers me, but I couldn’t stick up for everyone.”