Scott Cruickshank – Calgary Herald
GLENDALE, Ariz. — He is his own player.
Even if the back of his sweater says otherwise.
The namebar is household familiar, thanks to his dad’s 1,000 games — and 3,500 penalty minutes — in the National Hockey League.
The number is a tribute to another mould-breaker. Bobby Clarke wore No. 16, so the kid, also afflicted with diabetes, does, too.
And, while few other rookies receive well-wishing messages from the high-wattage likes of Mario Lemieux and Teemu Selanne, Max Domi is determined to carve out his own career.
Domi is the type of player — explosive, talented, valuable — that his father Tie made a living safeguarding.
“I am who I am and my dad is who he is,” the Arizona Coyotes freshman said in a short conversation with visiting reporters before Friday’s contest against the Calgary Flames. “I’ve been asked about that a lot. We’re two different people. Obviously, I’m a pretty lucky kid to have the dad that I have and learn from him — I take full advantage of having him as my dad. At the same time, I play my own game.
“He played 17 years in the NHL and you’ve got to be doing something right to play that long. He doesn’t get enough credit for how much skill he actually had.”
“I wouldn’t tell him that to his face,” he said. “I was more of a Mats Sundin fan, but, hey, I learned a lot from my dad.”
Who, by the way, is back in the spotlight.
Pops, making promotional rounds for his bestselling memoir Shift Work, is merrily recounting tales from his heyday, including a story or two about his son. Such as the time Domi, as a baby, was carried around the Chicago Bulls’ locker-room by Michael Jordan.
“Pretty cool,” said Domi. “I’m glad to see the book’s doing so well.”
Dad plied his trade in hockey markets, from New York to Winnipeg to Toronto.
Perhaps, for a youngster, it’s easier to get professional footing in sunny climes. Less scrutiny and all that.
After all, when Winnipeg Jets skipper Paul Maurice was recently asked about rookie Nikolaj Ehlers’ goalless spell, he said: “Jeff Skinner went 17 games once (without a goal) in Carolina and didn’t get asked one question about it. That’s the nice part about developing a kid in the hinterland.”
Domi, 20, doesn’t see it that way.
Expectations are no burden. Simply part of the job.
It helps that he’s performing well — 18 points, including eight goals, in the 21 games before the Flames’ arrival — and that he is relaxed in front of the press.
Dave Tippett points to the kid’s maturity, a byproduct of his return last winter to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
“That was good for Max,” said the Arizona coach. “He takes responsibility for things. And he’s not star-struck by anything. He’s been around it his whole life. He comes in and he prepares.
“In his situation … he’s got to make sure he’s healthy every day.”
A year after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Domi, then 13, was skating for the Domino’s Flyers at a Whitby, Ont., tourney. He had just switched his jersey, from No. 13 (yes, a tip of the hat to Sundin) to No. 16.
And would you know it?
There was Clarke watching his grandson’s team.
“My mom (Leanne) went up and asked if he would come say hi,” Domi recalled. “She said she’d never done that before because obviously she knows what it feels like to bugged during family time like that. But he came over and said hi. Pretty cool.”
Like Clarke, Domi hasn’t allowed diabetes to slow him.
He lives with a diabetic-alert dog — a yellow labrador, who, by smell, can tell when his owner’s blood sugar is low.
“My dog is a big part of my life.”
Even if Orion’s arrival did cost Domi his roommate, Anthony Duclair, who, as it turned out, is allergic to dogs.
“So he had to move out,” said Domi, smiling. “But he (lives) right down the street, so we get dinner every night together.”
With plenty to rehash these days.
Domi and Duclair are giving the Coyotes a rush.
“That’s the biggest thing — to be able to share this whole journey with a guy that’s your best buddy, too,” Domi said. “That makes it even more fun.”
Their contributions have been so significant that the Coyotes are back in the playoff mix after last season’s disappointing turn.
Most of the hockey world expected another flop.
But the Coyotes are a surprising bunch.
Must be nice to prove the experts wrong, eh?
“Not really,” said Domi, chuckling. “To be honest, I don’t really read anything you guys say. That’s what my dad taught me from a young age.”