By: Carter Brooks – The Hockey News
When you hear the name Domi, what comes to mind? Is it the record 333 career NHL fighting majors? Maybe it’s an unforgettable altercation with a fan in the penalty box. Whatever it is, it’s most likely not the words “goal scorer,” “captain material” or “first-line left winger.”
Newsflash: we aren’t living in 1997 anymore. The Domi of the 1990s and early 2000s is long retired. Tie’s name and legacy, however, live on in his 1995-born son, Max, who was drafted 12th overall by the then-Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. Max is built just like his father. He is short and stocky with a pugnacious attitude. But, unlike Tie, Max can score goals. Lots of them.
Max thoroughly enjoyed his four seasons spent with the OHL’s London Knights. He racked up three consecutive 30-plus-goal seasons, highlighted by a 102-point campaign in 2014-15. He acknowledges the time spent in London has really developed his game and has paved the right path for the next stop in his career.
“Oh it is huge,” he said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of my teammates, coaches, training staff. Everyone with the London Knights is first-class. Everyone in that organization knows how to win, and there is nothing better than learning how to win.”
But how will Max deal with losing? The team he hopes to make this fall – the Arizona Coyotes – have had their fair share of difficulties when it comes to winning. On top of that, for a non-traditional hockey market, selling out an arena is an extremely daunting task. When faced with the constant pressures of keeping up with attendance figures, in-arena sales, and profits as compared to other teams in the league, the Coyotes fall well short.
This past season marked Desert Dogs’ lowest point total since the NHL relocated the franchise south from Winnipeg in 1996. Winning 24 out of 82 games in a season does not provide much excitement for the fans or the players alike. Max is well aware of the facts surrounding his situation but bears a very positive attitude when it comes to helping this struggling team.
“You never want to carry with you a losing mentality,” he said. “You go in like you’re going to win every game you play. Obviously there is room for some young guys to come in there, and we’re all working toward that. We are going to go in there with that winning mentality and help these guys out and help them win.”
As the Coyotes quickly slipped out of the playoff race last season, they seemed destined for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. The NHL draft Lottery had other plans. In sliding to selection No. 3, the Coyotes drafted another OHL stud in Dylan Strome. He is at best a year or two away from full-time NHL duty, which gives other young prospects such as Domi a chance to impress at this fall’s training camp. Although there have been recent struggles, the future is bright for this last season’s basement dwellers.
At least Max does not need to look far to find a winning role model. Antoine Vermette was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2015 trade deadline. He went on to help them secure their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. This July he signed a two-year deal with the Coyotes, who offered to bring him back as a veteran. He will be relied on heavily for the knowledge and insight he gained during the Blackhawks’ run to the Cup.
“ ‘Vermy’ is a great guy on and off the ice, you learn so much from guys like that,” Domi said. “To be able to have him share his experience in winning is what it’s all about. I can’t wait to pick his brain about it.”
Although focusing on winning is important in hockey, Domi knows his first priority is simply making the Coyotes. He says that’s all he wants to focus on at the moment.
Whether he makes the team or not, there will be another Domi playing in the NHL soon. This Domi, however, will light up a very different stat category than his father did when his name starts appearing on scoresheets.