December 07, 2015
Though he also played for the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets, Tie Domi will always be remembered as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
He was unmistakably a tough guy, with under-appreciated hockey skills, too. He got into 100s of fights (a NHL record 333 to be exact), and is proud to be the Leafs all time penalty minutes leader. But he is also proud to be one of the most popular players in Leafs history.
Domi was unlike any other hockey player in Leafs history. He occupied a space in Toronto's sporting conscience normally reserved for superstars. He was no star, in fact he was often loathed as a hockey cementhead, but he was inextricably woven into the fabric of the city. He was more than a hockey player - he was a celebrity.
Part of Domi's charm was his undying commitment to charity and children in the city. He was also a popular fixture on Bay Street where he won over many in the business crowd not with his celebrity but his own acumen. NHL tough guys don't normally get confused with the intellectual crowd, but Domi was very much a savvy and intelligent businessman, turning his million dollar hockey paychecks into a whole new stratosphere as the CEO of his own company to overseas mergers and acquisitions.
Domi never forgot his roots though, and he knows he owes it all to hockey and his willingness to quite literally fight his way to the top.
He is quick to credit junior coach Dick Todd for his success, too.
"I was fortunate to play (Junior A) in Peterborough. The reason I'm where I am today is because I played there for Dick Todd. There's no ifs and buts," Domi says. Todd put Domi on the top line with Mike Ricci, then the best player in all of Canadian junior hockey, and scouts realized Domi could play too.
"I went from a guy who couldn't play -- from sitting in the stands one year, to playing on the first line and being drafted 27th overall by the Leafs."
After getting a chance to play just two games with the Leafs before he was traded to New York. In total he spent six years with the Rangers and Winnipeg Jets, cementing his reputation of cement hands. Despite being just 5'10" tall he fought all of the NHL's toughest customers, most notably Bob Probert.
But in his heart he always a Toronto boy, and he was thrilled to rejoin the Leafs in 1994. He stayed for more than a decade, turning down more lucrative job offers from other NHL teams (most notably from his good friend Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh) to remain a Leaf forever.
Domi's amazing story quite literally comes from almost nothing. His family fled from their native Albania. His father John was hit in the head with a bullet trying to escape, but he made it to Canada and started a family. Tie (his given name is Tahir) grew up fighting, quite literally, on and off the ice. It was never easy, but persevered and turned his life into a great success story.
All in all Tie Domi played in 1020 NHL games, scoring 104 goals and 245 points as well as accumulating 3515 penalty minutes.
"Pretty good for a guy who wasn't supposed to make it, eh?" Domi says.