One of the most ironic things about the fact that Tie Domi authored an autobiography is that he’d have a very difficult time reading it. As a former beat writer for The Toronto Star, I covered Domi’s career for eight years and I never knew he was dyslexic. I also didn’t know that he was also a celiac with a gluten allergy. Of course, at the time, neither did he.
There are some fairly startling revelations in Shift Work, which was co-written by Jim Lang and is available now. If you liked Domi before this book, you’ll probably like him more now. Written from a personal perspective, of course some of the history is revisionist, but all in all, the book is an entertaining, fast-paced read that has some nuggets of information that pull back the curtain on his career. Domi goes to great lengths to point out how he might not have had book smarts, but he worked harder and had more mental toughness than almost anyone ever in the history of the world. He makes the point early and often, but if Manny can be Manny, then we’ll give some latitude for Tie being Tie.
Domi, it should be pointed out, was unlike any of the enforcers of his time. The vast majority of those who were relegated to that job were players who did not have enough talent to do anything, many of whom were frustrated and dejected by their lot in the game. Domi was the opposite. He was always an above-average skater with a decent modicum of skill, but instead chose to fight because he actually liked doing it. At his best, Domi could have patrolled the third line for any team in the league and been an effective player without ever once dropping his gloves.
But that’s not what people who loved Domi as a player want to read. Much of the book is devoted to his life as an on-ice fighter, with some interesting and amusing sidebars that occurred during his career. He talks about one night when he and former New Jersey Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko got into a head-butting contest in a bar, and how in Calgary in 2003, he and a couple of teammates had to force an extremely intoxicated Ed Belfour into a cab to take him back to the team hotel. Belfour continued to resist until Domi had no other choice but to punch him in the face and knock him out cold.
There are some other good bits, but in the book Domi has an annoying habit of not providing names. For example, he talks about the last year of his career in 2005-06 and how he said a player who was a free agent came to his house to have Domi help him get signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He then goes on to write about how the player began acting out, “like he couldn’t take the pressure…and eventually things came to a head at a team meeting. This guys stood up in front of the team and started criticizing the guys around him. He talked as though he was untouchable and knew all the answers, and acted as though everyone else was the problem. We were stunned, and he just kept going on and on. A lot of my teammates were staring at me in shock. It was the first time Mats (Sundin) ever looked at me as if to say, ‘Do something. Now.’ When I saw that, I snapped.
“ ‘Hey,’ I yelled. ‘Why don’t you shut the hell up? If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it. We don’t need any negative B.S. right now. I don’t know what kind of leadership you learned on other teams, because you don’t have any.’ ”
The story takes a rather depressing tone when Domi talks about his life in 2008. Despite taking in almost $15 million in career earnings and making a good amount of money in his business ventures, Domi says the financial collapse of that year, along with a divorce settlement, almost wiped him out. He talks of having an eviction notice on his apartment door one day and former teammates have said that stories of Domi’s financial hardships are 100 percent accurate. Domi is back doing well financially, largely because of his hustle and business savvy.
But Domi, as anyone would when telling his own story, gilds the lily just a little. He talks about the divorce without mentioning any of the sordid details that led to it. When talking about his son, Max, playing for the London Knights, Domi said, “I told him…‘I’m not going to be that kind of dad’…I gave Max his space after he joined the Knights.” Hmmm.
But all in all, Shift Work is a worthwhile read.