For Max Domi, the aftermath of scoring his first NHL goal was just a blur.
Jumping on to the ice for a shift early in the second period of Friday night’s win over the Los Angeles Kings, Domi took a few strides, picked up the loose puck and ripped it by Jonathan Quick.
“I didn’t really aim, just shot and it went in,” Domi said during a Monday phone interview.
Domi is one of Those Other Guys — the NHL rookies not named Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Between Domi, Nikolaj Ehlers, Noah Hanifin, Dylan Larkin, Artemi Panarin and a number of others, in any other season they’d get as much buzz as last year’s top two draft picks.
There’s a lot of hockey left to play, but given how some of these Other Guys have impacted their teams early on, the headlines may not all be grabbed by McEichel.
The Arizona Coyotes have their own infusion of youth this season with Domi and Anthony Duclair becoming lineup regulars; and soon enough 2015 first-rounder Dylan Strome will join them. The kids are balanced nicely with veterans like captain Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette, allowing the 20-year old Domi to act like a sponge.
“As a young guy coming in it makes it a lot easier on you when you have older guys like that that can back you up and help you out,” Domi said. “They give you real pointers along the way, whether it’s on or off the ice. They’re all great people and great hockey players. It’s a special group.”
Domi is two games into his NHL career, but in 2008 his hockey career almost came to a stop.
When he was 12 year old, Domi was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes, meaning his body wasn’t producing enough insulin. His first question to doctors was whether he could continue playing hockey. Once they told him he could, that’s when the education began for his family. “There was a process, but it seemed to work out in the end,” he said.
Nearly eight years later, Domi has won a World Junior Championships gold medal and is a first-round NHL draft pick. After his diagnosis, he changed his number to 16, in honor of Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke, who is also a diabetic.
Domi wears an insulin pump on his hip at all times, even during practices and games, and regular monitors his glucose levels. That, along with tweaks to his daily routine and diet since being diagnosed have helped him continue to play at a high level.
“I don’t really look at it as an obstacle,” Domi said. “It’s definitely a part of my life I can’t change now. I’m just making the most of it and trying to turn it into a positive as much as possible.
Making the transition from junior hockey to the NHL is a big one for players. Luckily for Domi, he got to watch his father, Tie, on a daily basis during his 15 years in the league. Tie Domi racked up 3,515 penalty minutes, good for third all-time, but also played 1,020 games, second-most behind Dale Hunter among players who earned 3000-plus penalty minutes and played 1,000 games.
While Max Domi may never spend close to the amount of time his Tie did in the penalty box, he learned how to take care of his body and recovery properly in order to sustain a long professional hockey career from watching his father.
“It’s such a high skill and high intensity game and league,” Domi said, “It’s the best in the world so you’ve got to be able to play your best every single day to continue to try and get better. The biggest thing he’s put on me is work hard and let the rest take care of itself.”
“Can’t picture a Domi ever playing for the Flyers.”
Those were the words of Domi’s mother, Leanne, captured in an NHLPA behind-the-scenes video as the Philadelphia Flyers were about to make the 11th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. Samuel Morin would become a Flyer that day, as Max went to the Coyotes with the next pick.
Domi grew up rooting for the Flyers and even played for the Don Mills Flyers program in Toronto, whose teams wear the winged P logo on their jerseys. So had Paul Holmgren announced his name and not Morin’s, the elder Domi would have had to forget about the past.
“I was definitely a Flyers fan growing up,” Domi said. “My dad is definitely not.”
Max Domi as a Flyer would have caused many chuckles as fans harkened back to 2001 when his father mixed it up with a fan in the penalty box at the then-First Union Center in Philadelphia.
It’s a memory that’s lived on for hockey fans and the younger Domi.
“I was at home. I didn’t really remember what was going on, but I was laughing,” Max said recalling that infamous night as a six year old. “He’s such a character off the ice, too. To see him do that was pretty funny.
“People still get a kick out of it nowadays. It was great.”