When I was young, probably around the age of 7 or so, I became a rabid hockey fan. Thanks to my father, I was born and raised a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That means that in recent years, I’ve suffered quite a bit along with the rest of Leafs Nation. While things do seem to be taking a turn for the better recently for the blue and white, it’s been rough sailing for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t always that way, though.
When I was a kid, Doug Gilmour was definitely my favourite player. I still have and cherish my youth-sized Gilmour jersey that my dad bought me at 7 years old. By that point, Gilmour had already been traded away from the Leafs, but I didn’t care. I wore that jersey with pride for years.
Some of my fondest memories of the leafs were the early 2000’s, when the Leafs were regularly making the playoffs, and regularly destroying the Ottawa Senators in said playoffs. Tie Domi was a huge part of the Leafs team during that time, and even longer (his second tenure with the team lasted from 1994-95 to 2005-06). Speaking of the playoffs, remember that time he laid out Martin Havlat during the ’01 Battle of Ontario?
Not the cleanest of hits, but hugely effective – and that’s what Tie Domi was as a player: a very effective enforcer, and because of that, definitely a fan favourite.
Despite not being the biggest guy around, Domi feared nobody on the ice. You could tower over him, but if you want to drop the gloves with him, you better watch out. To illustrate this point, here’s a couple of compilations of his fights with big-name enforcers Bob Probert and Rob Ray:
Those are some intense rivalries!
Despite his image as a total tough guy, he’s a very kind-hearted, charitable person off the ice. I can attest to that second-hand.
I’ll explain. See, as a kid, I was a member of the Bud’s Club, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ youth fan club. Every year, the Bud’s Club hosts an open practice at the Air Canada Centre where members can bring family and friends to watch the team practice. My dad agreed to take both myself and my friend Nathan to the practice. As a youngster, Nathan suffered through some mobility issues that forced him to use a walker to walk confidently. At one point, he had to use the bathroom. To avoid having to go up all the stairs between the seats, he and my dad spoke to an usher who led them through the hallways under the stands to a bathroom. I stayed at our seats, evidently more interested in watching the action on the ice.
When they emerged from the hallway on their way back from the bathroom, my dad was holding a hockey stick. He got my attention and passed it up to a very confused me. I grabbed it from my seat while they made their way back up to our seats, and I examined it a little bit. Right up near the butt end of the stick, the name “DOMI” was printed on it. I looked back up and asked them what happened. My dad explained that as they were making their way through the halls, some of the players were coming off the ice. As they made their way through, Nathan with his walker, Tie Domi came around a corner or something and got tripped up on the walker. He turned around to see what he had just tripped on, and was apparently a little surprised by the sight of a 11-year-old kid using a walker. He then handed his stick over to Nathan and continued on his way to the dressing room. As I understand, that’s how it went down, but I wasn’t there so I can’t confirm the small details.
What I CAN confirm is that the stick still hangs on his wall at home, surely a point of pride.
What I learned from that is that Tie Domi is a nice guy, especially to kids.
That’s probably why this young man wasn’t too afraid of what the outcome might be when he decided to drop the gloves with Domi. Have a look:
I love that huge smile on his face as he points at the kid after seeing those gloves go flying, and then gives him what he was looking for.
It’s not the first time a fan has picked a fight with Domi… Remember that one time in Philadelphia?
Though I think the kid ended up getting a better outcome than that overzealous fan. Domi did end up patching things up with that guy who fell into the penalty box, though.
Ah Domi, what a beauty!