No fightin' words from Tie

Ex-Maple Leafs forward Tie Domi wearing some battle wounds after a confrontation on the ice. (QMI...

Ex-Maple Leafs forward Tie Domi wearing some battle wounds after a confrontation on the ice. (QMI Agency file photo)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

TORONTO - Tie Domi has avoided returning the barrage of phone messages, avoided commenting on Bob Probertís damaged brain, has chosen not to consider his own mortality or even his future.

He wonít see a doctor. He wonít get his brain checked out. He doesnít care to know what his future might look like.

ďAnd if I get checked out, then what?Ē asked Domi, the former Leaf, who fought more often than Probert in his career. ďWhatís that going to do for me?Ē The late Probert was posthumously diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease, CET, a forerunner to dementia. He may have been the best hockey fighter of his era but he wasnít the most active: Domi was.

ďListen, Iíve got three kids that I live every day for,Ē he said in a Toronto Sun exclusive interview. ďI canít be thinking about this. I donít want anybody worrying for me. This (story) has made people worry about me. I donít like that. Iím getting all kinds of calls, all kinds of reaction. I donít want any negative thoughts around me. Iím one of those guys who doesnít like to look in the past. I havenít read one article about what happened (to Probert) and I donít plan on reading one. People keep sending them to, pointing me to them, but Iím not looking at them, Iím not looking in the past. Iím looking ahead. Itís how I have to be.

ď(Fighting) is my past life. Itís made me who I am and Iíll never forget that. I never discuss it with anybody, though. I never talk about fighting, ever. Iím not comfortable talking about it. Mentally, it was tough, tough on me. It was part of my job. It was what I had to do. I did whatever I had to do to make it. My dream was to be a hockey player. Everybody told me I was too small or not good enough. So I did whatever I had to do to make it. And I donít apologize for that.

ďBoth of us (Probert) did it for so long, but once youíre done youíre done. Thereís no point going back and talking about it.Ē

There is no way of quantifying all the numbers, but the estimates are that Domi fought more than 400 times in his hockey career, as a junior, a pro, during training camp and the exhibitions seasons. It was his calling card, and Probert for many years was his most notable rival. Probert was the heavyweight champion of the NHL and Domi was either the No. 1 contender or the cruiserweight champion himself. They were an attraction at a time when fighting was not so frowned upon.

But these are troubling times for hockey players, past and present. There is more information about the dangers of head trauma than ever before. The issues of hockey now meld uncomfortably together, with questions being asked about what to do about concussions, head shots, fighting, goons. Once, each of those problems may have been separate. Now itís hard to debate one without the other and from his perch, Domi has little interest in furthering what he said on television the year after he retired.

He then said he worried that it wouldnít be long before someone would be killed in a hockey fight. He hasnít necessarily softened on that position, only heíd rather not elaborate on the subject.

ďI knew when I said that it was going to come up again and it would haunt me forever,Ē said the 41-year-old Domi, five years removed from being a Maple Leaf. ďI said it wouldnít definitely be a sad day (if something happened). But Iím not looking to get involved or talk about any of this stuff. I have a son playing (minor midget AAA). He had a concussion this year after he got jumped in a game. Iím sensitive to that.

ďBut I donít think most people understand what itís like (to be a fighter). When you did what we did, you donít miss having the anxiety and pressure that goes with it. You did it because you had to do it, and you donít want to talk about anymore when itís over.

ďWhen I played I didnít talk about it. I can remember Keith Tkachuk as a youngster in Winnipeg saying to me: ĎTheyíve got so and so on their team.í And I just looked at him and said: ĎI donít like talking about it.í He didnít understand.Ē

For most of their careers, Domi and Probert fought each other, but didnít really know each other. It wasnít until the television show, Battle of the Blades, where they were brought together as unlikely figure skaters, that they actually became friends. When Probert died last July, Domi was heartbroken.

ďHe was all about his wife and kids,Ē Domi said. ďWhen he died, everybody talked about all the troubles he had and I didnít like that. I got to know him as a person. He was a like a great big teddy bear, happy with his life. We all went to the U2 concert together, the whole cast of the show. And the whole time, Bob had his cell phone on, holding it up to the speakers so his wife and kids could listen to the concert, smiling the whole time. Wanting to share it with them. Thatís the Bob Probert I got to know.Ē

The rest, he doesnít really want to know about.


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