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TIE GAME: Domi Hangs Up Skates and Knuckles ....and goes out with class!

File this one under blog posts I never thought I'd write!

As everyone with a heart for Canadian hockey knows, Tie Domi has called it a career this week. With the Toronto Maple Leafs having bought out the remainder of his contract, this news takes no one by surprise. What caught me off guard, was my own reaction to the news.

Although it became pretty evident last year that Domi 's days in the new free skating NHL were dwindling, I still secretly hoped that the Leafs or another team of Tie's suiting would give him one last go around. As it turned out, Domi only saw himself wearing the blue and white, or nothing at all.

During the Albanian Assasin's career, I must admit I was never the greatest fan of his. I often took the opportunity to point out that the scrambled letters to his full name spelled out ME IDIOT! I was like many people who were not Leafs fans: I tolerated his manic gestures because he was damn colourful on and off the ice.

Leaf nation adored him. He was a catalyst and an unofficial captain in many regards. He battled not only every opponant worthy of him, he also battled his own admittedly mince talent to become a more complete player. He earned every ounce of respect due him. His battles with Bob Probert are legendary amongst fans of fisticuffs. He was a passionate combattant in the four corners of the rink. Domi loved his fans and respected the game that gave him noteriety with same zest he played the game.

Much of this was already in plain view before this weeks announcement.

When a career winds down and tribute pours forth, it often alters ones perception and assessment of a player. This occured to me as read more and more on the man. I had a chance to ponder some facts I already knew and some that crept up on me that I'd been unaware of in regards to his career.

I'd known Tie had played his thousanth game last season. I didn't know he sat 10th on the Leafs for all time games played. That's quite an achievement. Worthy, in my opinion, of a jersey honour in the rafters of the ACC, especially for a player of his type.

I didn't know he was so close to overtaking his hero Tiger Williams for 2nd place on the all-time penalty minutes list. Domi can be proud he sits third.

Domi mentioned the Scott Neidermayer incident at the press conference as his biggest regret. Taking that opportunity to list it as the one thing he would undo, took guts and class.

In looking back over his days in the league, he stressed that he is proof positive that any kid can make the big league with enough heart and effort. I hope a million Canadian kids heard that loud and clear.

He dropped the name of the Senator's Chris Neil in reference to how a player has to continuously work his game to remain an NHLer. A classy tip of the hat that touched Neil a day later when he corroborated the story of his first encounter with Domi. Funny to hear that both share an appreciation for each other.

Domi will now be working at TSN as an analyst and commentator. My hope is that he takes the Don Cherry approach and holds nothing back as he runs with the pro-Canadian hockey mantle I'm sure he will soon he handed.

Hopefully, when he rides off into the sunset, it will not be on top Belinda Stronarch!