Domi: Elbow on Niedermayer the ‘dumbest thing I did in my career’

Toronto Maple Leafs' Tie Domi (left) punches New Jersey Devils' Jay Pandolfo in a fight during second period NHL action in Toronto Saturday, March 30, 2002. Former NHL tough guy Domi talks old-school values in his newly-released autobiography.

TORONTO — The photos on the inside cover of Tie Domi’s “Shift Work” tell the book’s tale.

There are shots of family as well as stars like Mario Lemieux and Mark Wahlberg. But they are outnumbered by those showing Domi surrounded by firefighters, cabbies, police officers, construction workers and other everyday folk.

The former NHL tough guy values his real-life connections and what they stand for.

Domi, 46, said he turned down past requests to do a book because he didn’t want the focus to be on fighting. Instead he wanted to write a book dedicated to his late father, about positive life-lessons and old-school values like treating people how you want to be treated.

``If I was going to do a book, I wanted to make sure it was a book that I can actually put my name to and be proud of,'' Domi said in an interview.

After 16 years, 1,118 games and 3,753 penalty minutes in the National Hockey League, Domi had no shortage of hockey stories. He says he fought a record 333 times during his NHL career.

``Not that I'm proud of it, but it is what it is,'' he writes.

But when he decided to say yes to a book, he promised only headlines from his childhood, career and life after hockey.

There were other things he wanted to say.

``If you want to be a true leader and a decent person in this world you have to know the real people who do the hard work in life,'' he writes. ``That goes for business and everyday life as well as hockey.''

``If everyone would take the time to acknowledge people and get to know them and show them the basic common courtesy they deserve – even just a simple hello and goodbye – the world would be a much better place,'' he adds. ``Just remember that everyone is equal, on a hockey team and in life.''

He devotes an entire chapter, called ``Keeping it Real,'' to people he has met from other walks of life who have left an impression.

Domi, a 5-foot-10 fireplug who retired after the 2005-06 season, says he fought to protect his teammates during an in-your-face career that comes with some ugly highlights.

He calls the elbow smash to Scott Niedermayer's head in the 2001 playoffs – payback for a Niedermayer stick to the face in an earlier game – ``the dumbest thing I did in my career.'' He was banned for the rest of the playoffs and the first eight games of the next season.

He voices fewer regrets about the infamous Ulf Samuelsson sucker-punch in 1995, although admits the ensuing eight-game suspension was warranted. The Rangers defenceman made the mistake of calling Domi, a dyslexic, a ``dummy.''

Domi speaks highly of former Leafs coaches Pat Burns and Pat Quinn. He is not as complimentary about former GM John Ferguson Jr.

He does not dish on his 2006 divorce or highly publicized past relationship with Belinda Stronach, although family is clearly dear to him. But he does talk candidly about his business hits and misses.

Domi, whose circle of friends includes more than few entrepreneurs, says he was the first player in the NHL with a BlackBerry and would go over spreadsheets in his hotel room. But during the 2008 financial crash, he came home to find an eviction notice on his front door.

``I let my guard down and I trusted people that I shouldn't have trusted,'' he said.

He credits friend Mitch Goldhar, who built the first Walmart store in Canada in 1994, for helping him recover.

``He had told me to put my head down and my walls high. I really did that and the walls are really, really high,'' Domi said. ``I'm trying to teach my son (Arizona Coyotes rookie Max Domi) that now.''

Domi's story – and message – seems to have struck a chord. ``Shift Work'' topped the bestsellers' list in Canada.

``It's a pretty cool, surreal feeling. It's very humbling,'' he said.