Mark Zwolinski – thestar.com
Max Domi’s skating and training sessions at the BioSteel hockey camp this week helped tune his body and mind toward an upcoming NHL season with a new team.
But the 23-year-old Montreal Canadiens forward, who grew up in Toronto as a diehard Leafs fan — especially with his father, Tie Domi, playing for the home side — had a few things to straighten out.
Domi, traded from Arizona to the Canadiens in mid-June, said he “hates’ the Leafs in a Twitter exchange with fans in July. But hate may have been a bit strong.
While Domi might be on the other side of Canada’s long-running rivalry, he won’t be able to forget his formative years. He grew up in close range to the team Leafs, visiting the dressing room and practices and developing a friendship with Mats Sundin, one of his father’s closest teammates. The younger Domi still speaks with Sundin regularly, and the two spoke after Domi’s trade to the Canadiens.
The hatred will have to develop in the ice, where Domi at least will spice up the Canadiens-Leafs rivalry.
“I grew up in a city where the Leafs are everything,” Domi said Thursday. “As a kid and growing up a Leafs fan, you get to not liking the Boston Bruins, Montreal …
“As soon as I get (to Montreal), that will be part of it, at least you will think about it at first.”
And he’s used to the questions about his Toronto connections. “When I played in Arizona, people would ask me, ‘Do you like the Leafs now?’ You have to respect every team in the league. The Leafs have a great team and they have great fans here and everywhere. So we’ll prepare for that and cross that bridge when it comes.”
Domi is truly excited to be heading to Montreal. He is leaving a Coyotes organization that drafted him 12th overall in 2013. He scored 18 goals in his rookie season, but his goal production fell off to nine in each of the last two seasons.
He was traded for Alex Galchenyuk on June 15, and the next day in Montreal, he signed a two-year, $6.3-million contract extension.