Tie Domi is a record-breaking Toronto Maple Leafs legend. He played the game of hockey in a way the players of today may not understand. Some may say hockey has changed for the better, but in the fading era of enforcers, Tie Domi was king.
Domi holds the NHL record for the most career fighting majors with 333. He is the Toronto Maple Leafs all-time leader in career penalty minutes, and he has the third most career penalty minutes in NHL history. (Some info from Wikipedia.org)
Tie Domi many not have had the scoring talent to put a lot of points on the board, but he had a talent non-the-less. Before the 2004-05 lockout, NHL rules were a lot different. Player safety seemed to be deemed less important than physically brutal entertainment.
In Tie Domi’s time, checks to the head were okay, blindside hits were fine, leaving your feet to deliver a check was totally legal… Many NHL superstars suffered career damaging injuries because of this and players who could hurt talented players in this way were often praised and rewarded.
If the rules weren’t going to protect the players, the players had to protect each other, and Domi was the great protector. If anyone intended to injure a Toronto Maple Leafs player, they wouldn’t have to answer to the refs or the NHL Department of Player Safety (there wasn’t one until 2011), but they would have to answer to Tie Domi.
Toronto Maple Leafs Draft Pick, Tie Domi
Tie Domi was drafted in the second round (27th overall) by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. Domi was selected after earning his reputation as an enforcer during his first full season with the Peterborough Petes in the OHL recording 22 goals, 43 points and 292 penalty minutes in 60 games.
He spent the 1989-90 season with the Leafs farm team at the time, the Newmarket Saints, and played his first two NHL games with the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, during the summer of 1990, Domi was traded with Mark LaForest to the New York Rangers for Greg Johnston. Johnston would spend most of his time in the minors only playing four games with the Leafs.
Domi would only play 82 games over three seasons with the Rangers. In December 1992, he was traded with Kris King to the Winnipeg Jets for Ed Olczyk. All three players involved in that trade were Toronto Maple Leafs during their careers.
With the Winnipeg Jets, Tie Domi was finally able to establish himself as a full time NHL enforcer. During the 1992-93 season, he played 61 games putting up 15 points and 344 penalty minutes (3rd most in the league).
During his first full season with the Jets in 1993-94, Domi led the NHL with 347 penalty minutes in 81 games. He would be voted as the Winnipeg Jets Most Popular Player that season. The next season, Tie Domi would be traded on the 1995 NHL Trade Deadline to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 3rd round draft pick (Brad Isbister) and Mike Eastwood.
Tie Domi Returns to the Toronto Maple Leafs
Tie Domi was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario and idolized another famous Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer, Dave “Tiger” Williams, while he was growing up. Tie Domi would surpass Tiger Williams’ Toronto Maple Leafs franchise records for career penalty minutes (2265) and single-season penalty minutes with 365 during the 1997-98 season.
One of Tie Domi’s most controversial moments occurred during the first season of his return to the Toronto Maple Leafs when he sucker punched Ulf Samuelsson and knocked him out cold. Samuelsson was notorious for his deliberate dirty plays with intent to injure.
Ulf Samuelsson’s “claim to fame” was knocking Cam Neely out of the 1991 Playoffs with a knee-on-knee check. The injury caused Neely to develop myositis ossificans which limited the superstar to a mere 22 games over the next two seasons and ultimately ended his career.
I remember watching the Domi/Samuelsson incident on live TV when I was 12 years old. It looked like Domi and Samuelsson were calmly talking in front of the Rangers net and watching the play when out of nowhere, Domi tucks one glove under his arm to remove it and deliver a one-punch knock-out to Samuelsson’s face.
Samuelsson had been jeering Domi to start a fight calling him a “dummy.” Domi received an eight game suspension (he rarely missed games unless suspended) and apparently, he also received Cam Neely’s approval.
Another famous incident occurred in 2001 when Tie Domi was getting heckled by a spectator in Philadelphia while serving time in the penalty box. Domi had enough of the heckler and sprayed the guy with a water bottle.
The Flyers fan started climbing over the glass when it gave out, and he toppled into the box on top of Domi. Domi started throwing punches and received the maximum fine of $1000 but wasn’t suspended.
When Tie Domi’s contract was about to expire in 2002, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded his rights days before the commencement of free agent signing period to the Nashville Predators for an 8th round draft pick (Shaun Landolt). Tie Domi would resign with Toronto two weeks later.
I remember hearing at the time that Tie Domi had a clause in his contract that would pay out a large bonus if he scored 10 or more goals in a season. He scored 13 goals in 2000-01, but fell short with 9 goals in 2001-02. In 2002-03, he had career highs for goals and points with 15 goals and 29 points in 79 games.
Tie Domi After the Toronto Maple Leafs
After the 2004-05 lockout, a lot changed in the hockey world. The era of enforcers was coming to a close. Partially because of the new rule changes and partially because the new salary cap didn’t leave much room for players who weren’t scoring.
The Toronto Maple Leafs parted ways with many greats when the salary cap was introduced including Alexander Mogilny, Gary Roberts, Brian Leetch, Joe Nieuwendyk, Owen Nolan, Ron Francis, Mikael Renberg and Robert Reichel. A year later, they bought out Tie Domi’s contract.
I remember hearing that Tie Domi was offered a contract by the Pittsburgh Penguins, but Tie Domi decided to retire at the age of 36 instead of playing for a team that wasn’t the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Domi soon took a broadcasting position with TSN, but the position only lasted a few weeks. He also participated in the CBC reality series, Battle of the Blades, which pits former hockey players against each other in a figure skating competition.
Tie Domi has two daughters and his son, Max Domi, has played in seven NHL seasons so far with the Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets. I watched Max play for the OHL’s London Knights, and Tie would often be at the games. Many Tie Domi fans dream of a day where Max Domi could re-live his father’s legacy by joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Check out TieDomi.com for an awesome 90’s style website made by Tie Domi himself!
I’ve written a few posts about some of my favourite former Leafs such as Todd Gill, Nikolai Borschevsky, Dmitri Yushkevich, Jamie Macoun and Peter Zezel. Who would you like me to write about next? Let me know in the comment section.