TORONTO- Dallas Eakins had an old friend stop by practice to give his club some advice as they prepared for their second-round matchup against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Former Leaf enforcer Tie Domi, once a teammate of both Eakins and assistant coach Derek King, came to the Ricoh Coliseum on Tuesday and addressed the Marlies after being invited to the arena by the head coach.
“I ran into Tie in a coffee shop, and Tie and I go way back,” said Eakins. “We played junior together, pro together. He’s a guy I have history with. I said listen, ‘you’re always welcome to come by practice.’ It’s always good when established guys with quality NHL careers can stop by.”
Domi, who collected 3515 penalty minutes in 1020 NHL games over the course of 16 seasons, highlighted the importance of staying discipline when emotions are at an all-time high, which was something he learned from experience. Most notably, in 2001 Domi picked up a suspension for a malicious elbow on New Jersey Devils defenceman Scott Niedermeyer that caused him to miss the remainder of that season’s playoffs and eight more games to start the 2001-02 season.
“The one thing (Domi) said you don’t want to take in the playoffs are bad penalties. He said ‘I only took one bad penalty and it was an elbowing penalty.’ He didn’t say who it was against but I guess he was referring to (Niedermeyer),” Eakins said. “He was telling guys that it’s amazing the simple things he was told by coaches, especially in the playoffs, how important they are.”
“He was talking about his career and said if you want (the NHL) that bad you can get it,” added forward Greg Scott.
Another reason why Eakins thought it was important for Domi to address the group is because he’s proof that determination and effort can get you to the next level.
In 1986, a 19-year-old Eakins met Domi as a 16-year-old rookie who was first entering junior hockey. They spent two seasons together with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes and formed a relationship that was rekindled in 1999 when they both played for the Maple Leafs. By then, Eakins, a journey-man who scraped together 120 NHL games over a 16-year-career, was already on his 12th pro team, while Domi had solidified himself as an every-day NHLer by being one of the toughest guys to ever lace up skates.
“You have to find a way into the NHL,” said Eakins. “I knew Tie when he was 16 and he was going to quit (hockey) because he was homesick. He may be the greatest example to these guys because he found a way to get his foot in the door. Then he improved as a player and stayed around a long, long time. He’s a perfect example of someone who probably never should have played and he found a way to do it.
“Guys are huge and Tie’s not a big guy. He was not only expected to (fight), he was expected to win. It’s an amazing career that Tie had,” added Eakins.
Domi isn’t the first former Leaf that Eakins has had address his club and likely won’t be the last one either. Wendel Clark came in two seasons ago and if the coach has his way there will be more in the future.
“When I saw Tie the other day, you get caught up in what you’re doing and you forget about the resources you have in Toronto and it was a reminder to me that maybe I should have some more former players come in. Not even to speak, just to have a coffee.”
The Marlies will host Game 1 versus the Griffins Friday.