Domi says he has much to prove

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Tie Domi blew out the candles on his 36th birthday cake yesterday, insisting the flame still burns within him to stay in the National Hockey League.

At an age when most players who made their name with their fists have faded away, the third-most penalized player in league history yearns to prove himself "a complete player" before retiring.

"I'm having more fun now than I did in my first 10 years in the league," Domi said following Monday's 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

"I still have a lot left in the tank. I get charged up for every game like I did when I was younger. I'm playing a lot more and I'm among the top nine guys at forward (here), which says a lot for what I've done in my career. A lot of that credit has to go to Pat Quinn. Since he got here (in 1998), he has challenged me to play under pressure in this city, especially in playoffs.

"I thrive on that."

Domi has curtailed his fighting in recent years, deputizing Wade Belak for the enforcer's role.

When Domi did duke it out on Saturday against young Ottawa Senators' rogue Brian McGrattan, he was staggered by a punch to the nose.

This rare loss was seen by some as a harbinger of doom for the Quinn-era Leafs, who have prided themselves on their toughness against the rising Sens.

But two nights later, Domi played 14 minutes and had three hits and two blocked shots against the visiting Panthers.

He played wing on an effective new line with Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Tucker.

Life is good again.

"That's what so great about playing in this city, for your hometown, for the team you grew up watching," Domi said.

"One day everyone is down on you, people don't want to see you. The next day you're a hero. That's why we try to keep things balanced in here and try to tell the new guys to keep their feet on the ground."

Domi has been traded away once, but successfully lobbied to come back and has passed on two chances to sign as a free agent elsewhere in the NHL.

"I've seen a lot of guys come and go, but at the end of the day, the jersey is always there," he said.

"Everyone takes pride in that."


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