BROSSARD, Que. — It’s possible to have amassed 3,515 penalty minutes in the National Hockey League and still be a gentleman. Tie Domi proved as much this week.
What began as an individual interview at the Montreal Canadiens practice facility Thursday quickly transformed into an imposing scrum as the former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer held court for more than 10 minutes.
The task was no doubt made easier because the 48-year-old is happy to see his son Max feeling so at home with his new team, the Canadiens.
“He works hard every day, he has a smile on his face, so that’s nice to see,” Domi said. Seeing his son so happy, “makes my day,” he added.
Domi said he had not been planning to attend the Canadiens home game Wednesday against St. Louis, but his son persuaded him, and he witnessed his first goal in a Habs jersey.
Even though he is from Ontario and played 777 of his 1,020 regular-season games for the Leafs, Domi said he hasn’t thought twice about cheering for the Canadiens — and not only because his son is on the team.
It is not “weird” to see Max wearing the colours of a team that was an arch-rival when he was playing, he said.
“It was actually emotional because I was happy for him — original six. It’s a historical franchise,” he said. “I grew up idolizing Guy Lafleur and the Montreal Canadiens and the winning tradition. I played for Toronto, but Montreal was always my team as a kid, and Guy was always my favourite player.”
Domi said his son’s move from Arizona, where he played the first three years of his career, has been welcome. In Arizona, there were constant questions about the fate of the Coyotes, which takes a toll on the players.
“It’s kind of unstable in that situation — where are they going to be, the fans,” Domi said. “Here you live it, you walk it, you breathe it every day. That’s what you dream to do, and he’s living his dream now for sure.”
He said Max had been used to winning, including three trips to the Memorial Cup with the London Knights and a gold medal at the 2015 World Junior Championship. In Arizona, he played for teams that were out of playoff contention by Christmas. “It’s a tough pill to swallow for anyone,” he said.
Now, Domi said, his son is “on a real team, in a real market. It’s exciting to see him taking it all in, but at the same time, he’s taking it a day at a time. He’s a positive kid.”
Max Domi, 23, echoed his father’s sentiments when he got off the practice ice, saying he has been happy with the trade since day one.
“It’s a huge honour to be part of this franchise, and to be a part of this team,” he said. “Obviously, the start has been great for us, and we’re all enjoying ourselves at the rink right now.”
In the past, some players have balked at coming to Montreal because of the pressure of being constantly under the microscope. He said such pressure can be a positive.
“When you’re winning the city’s on a high. When you’re going through some tough times it’s harder to play,” he said. “Some people don’t like that, and others thrive on it …. Playing in a market like this is something I’ve dreamed of my whole life.”