Tie Domi retired from the NHL in 2006 having fought a record 333 times in the regular season, and that figure doesn't count all the scraps in juniors, the minor leagues, the preseason and the playoffs -- not to mention some fights away from the rink altogether. Domi played 1,020 regular season games over 16 seasons, tallying 104 goals. But he's best known as one of the most feared enforcers in league history, despite his 5-foot-10 frame. (His 3,515 penalty minutes are the third most all-time.) Domi's written a book with Jim Lang, "Shift Work," which looks at his career with the Rangers, Jets and Maple Leafs, and aims to spread a message of positivity while stressing the importance of treating others with respect.
Domi spoke with Sports on Earth about the state of fighting in the NHL, watching his son Max (a highly touted rookie with Arizona), and why he'd never consider visiting HockeyFights.com.
In the book, you talk about the right reasons to fight, from protecting a teammate to trying to change the momentum of the game. But what, to you, are the wrong reasons to fight?
TD: Just to fight. Just for the sake of fighting. That was never my intention throughout my career, just to fight. There was always a purpose. I always wanted to make it for the team, regardless if it was for one of my teammates, or to change the momentum, or to send a message for the next game.
You wrote that you're not proud of having the record for the most fights, but that it is what it is. Why aren't you proud of it?
TD: Well, you know, I'd rather tell kids I played the most playoff games for the Leafs in the last four decades. That sounds a little better when you tell kids that. Or that I played the second most playoff games in team history for right-wingers after George Armstrong. Those are things I'm proud of. But now with kids nowadays, they say, "You're Max Domi's dad. You used to be the fighter." It's something I'm proud of to be Max's father. But the fighting thing -- it was what I did. There's no rear-view mirrors. I live for today, not for yesterday.
How would you have felt as a father if Max had a career path similar to yours -- if he was more of a fighter?
TD: I'm not one of those guys that actually thinks hypothetically like that, you know what I mean? For me, it's one of those things where I don't really think that way, so I don't know how to comment on that. The guys I protected are the elite players -- the guys who win games and lose games for you. And I think Max has always been that since he was a kid. He's been to three Memorial Cups as a junior player, and he won the World Junior, and now he's kind of doing it in the NHL now, and that's kind of cool to watch him figure it out. So the thought of him being like me was never even a thought in my mind, because I wouldn't want him to go through it.
The league has changed so much, and the role of the enforcer has been diminished. Why do you think that is?
TD: Well that old saying, there's those pro-violent people, you know? Violence, violence, violence. Well, that was really I think what happened. You started having some serious injuries, and not necessarily because of violence. But there was always a negative, dark cloud over fighting for some reason or another. When I did it, when the Bob Proberts of the world did it, we did it to protect our teammates, and to make people accountable. I think the league is doing a much better job. They still have a long way to go. But you have to protect your players. The players are the game.
Do you think we'll get to a point where the NHL will ban fighting? Gary Bettman supports keeping it in the game, but perhaps down the line?
TD: Gary Bettman has never come out and said he wants fighting out of hockey. He's a friend of mine, and he's never said that. The guy who runs junior hockey, he's the guy who's been parading around, trying to get fighting out of the game, but he's not doing anything to protect the players. He's more or less trying to make a name for himself, and he's the guy who's always wanted Gary's job. He'll never get Gary's job, so he might as well stop thinking about that. I think he should just worry about his league, and protecting his players in that league, because I watched my son be literally a target for four years straight. Leading scorer in the regular season and in playoffs, and from his first year in the playoffs to his last year in playoffs, literally guys tried to end his career. And that's what you have to understand. I did that in junior, right through to pro. In junior hockey, Mike Ricci was my centerman. He was the guy. Mike Ricci was the guy, and I protected him in juniors. My son was that guy that wasn't protected. He had to learn to protect himself. So as a father, it was very difficult watching in the stands and seeing what he was going through, literally having a target on his back, with guys trying to hurt him. The league did nothing about it from his first year to his fourth year. I was disappointed in how that was handled, for sure.
When you wrote about the late Wade Belak in the book, you talked about how not all players face the same consequences from fighting. Is that something you think about now, that the hits that you took could one day have an adverse affect on your life?
TD: That's why I wrote a positive book instead of talking about those types of things -- to get positive messages and life messages across, whether it's childhood or during my hockey career or post-career. And that's why I stuck to those type of headlines and stories. I didn't really want to elaborate on those types of things, because I think that just goes down the negative path and that's not what the book's all about.
There's a lot of websites dedicated to fighting. Have you ever been to hockeyfights.com?
TD: Never, never, never, never, never, never, never. Never done it, and don't plan on doing it. The people that comment on it, or people that actually comment on fighting that have never been in a fight, I really can't have a conversation with people like that. Because they actually have no clue. You're always going to get negative people that have never been in a fight that always have their negative things to say. I really can't comment on someone telling me how a fight goes or how someone fights. When I was in New York and played with Joe Kocur, he was just like me. He never talked about fighting. I say in the book, he's the one who kind of made me realize why I'm right in not talking about it, because it's a tough enough job as it is.
Adam Graves is married to your cousin, but he's actually not in the book too much. Do you have a good Adam Graves story that didn't make the book?
TD: Well we used to live together, and we'd wrestle all the time to see who goes to pick up McDonald's. And I can honestly tell you that I never lost. I like to rub that in his face. But he is a sweet guy. What I say in the book about him is the truth. He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. I kept my sister and my cousin away from hockey players my whole career, but when Adam asked me if he could have Violet's phone number to take her to dinner and a show, obviously I said yes. Now he's married to my cousin and has a beautiful family with three children, and I'm godparent to one of their daughters.
You write about how your son shares the same values as you do. But is there anyone in the NHL today that reminds you of yourself as a player?
TD: No, actually there's not many guys like that anymore. It's nice to see Chris Neil still playing. I saw Max play against him in Ottawa, and Max congratulated him on the ice when they faced off against one another, for playing his 900th game. So I have a lot of respect for that kid. He can actually play, which at the end of the day, we all try to prove ourselves. We're always tagged as the guys who are one-dimensional, so I think he's proven he can do a lot more than just fight. And it took me a while to do it -- to prove to people. But once you prove to people you can play, the game is much more fun, trust me.
This interview has been edited and condensed.