After signing a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs, Max Domi discussed his excitement about joining his father’s former club in hopes of chasing a Stanley Cup with his hometown team.
Brad Treliving mentioned that you were dying to play in Toronto. Why is that?
Domi: Absolutely. It is no secret that Toronto is my hometown team. I have a lot of family and friends there. My whole family still lives there, more or less. I come and spend my summers there.
I was a Leafs fan all the way growing up. I got to witness firsthand a lot of pretty amazing games in the playoffs with my pops growing up. Mats Sundin is like family to me as well.
That is enough of a push on my end to want to chase the dream of playing for the Maple Leafs and ultimately trying to win a Stanley Cup for the Maple Leafs. My dad played for over a decade here. I know firsthand through him how hard it is to win.
In the last couple of years, I have seen just how hard it is. With Carolina, we made it to the second round and lost to a good team in New York. This past year in Dallas, we made it to the final three, really, and it really is the hardest trophy to win in sports.
I absolutely love the team they’ve built. I think Brad has brought in some great pieces with Bert and Reavo. It just really excited me to come home and play with guys like Auston, Mitch, John, Willy, and Morgan — all of these great players. There is so much talent.
It is a great team. I always loved coming to play here on the road. It was a no-brainer for me.
What are you looking to add to this team? What have you identified as something you can contribute to push the team forward?
Domi: Again, when you are asked to join a team that is already established as a contender, so to speak, it is a huge boost to your confidence that a team like that wants to bring you in and help them take the next step forward.
I have had some great conversations with Brad as well as Keefer about certain things that they are looking for. They thought I would be able to jump in and help with that. I am a guy who plays hard every single shift and will do whatever it takes to help his teammates and win hockey games. That is what it is all about.
I am really looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity in front of us here. It is going to be a fun year. I am super eager to get started. I just can’t wait.
Who has reached out to you in the time since signing in Toronto — maybe some people you expected to hear from, and some you haven’t heard from in a long time?
Domi: To me, it is funny in a way. I have played on so many teams now. The great part about that — and obviously there are a lot of negatives with not being able to get settled and whatnot — is that you get to meet a lot of guys. You get to meet a lot of unbelievable human beings, whether it is other players, training staff, coaching staff, management, or you name it. Great fan bases.
I have been very, very lucky to play in some really cool situations over the years. I have played some playoff hockey as well. It has been great.
Going back to my junior days and playing with someone like Mitch, that would be something that is really exciting to me. When I talked to him a little bit, he was pretty excited to be reunited with another London Knight.
I spoke with him and spoke with John. I know Johnny T pretty well from training here in the summer. There are so many guys who play in the league who come back to Toronto every summer. He and I are pretty familiar with each other. I am stoked to jump on board with him.
I spoke with Auston. I texted back and forth a little bit with Morgan. I haven’t had a chance to jump on a call with him yet, but it is great, man. It is really exciting.
I really appreciate those guys reaching out. It is always an interesting transition when you come to a new team, and it is no different here, but it certainly makes it much easier when you are coming home. There is just something really special about that.
It is a big reason why I chose to sign here: I wanted to come home. I have been lucky to play in some great places, but now I got a chance to come home and it worked for both sides. It was just a no-brainer for me. I am really looking forward to getting started.
Have you had a chance to talk to your dad, and what was his reaction?
Domi: He is ecstatic. He is just a hockey dad or a hockey fan at this rate like anyone else.
For myself, personally, winning is everything, especially when he wasn’t lucky enough to be a part of a team that hoisted a Stanley Cup. That was something that he was never able to do. It is the hardest thing in our sport to do for a reason. Not many guys get a chance to do that.
It is one thing to do that. Another chance to do it in the same jersey he was wearing for many years is something that makes the hair stand up on my arms. I look forward to the challenge of trying to accomplish that with all of these guys.
It is a special group, and he knew that. He is excited about it. There are a lot of huge, diehard Leafs fans out there, but my dad has kind of been jumping on the bandwagon of whatever team I am on. I have jumped head-first, all-in into whatever team I am playing for, but I am back home and playing for the Maple Leafs. There isn’t a bigger fan of the Leafs right now than my dad, that’s for sure.
You practically grew up at the ACC. How comfortable are you going to be sliding in there as a player?
Domi: Absolutely. I actually got to spend some time in the locker room during that Covid bubble thing when I was in Montreal. That was a little bit weird. I played World Juniors there as well.
It goes back to playing mini-sticks in the hallway of the room. That was my childhood, walking around the locker room, folding towels with the equipment staff and training staff — guys like Scott McKay, Brian Papineau, and Bobby Hastings is still there, so I am really excited to see him. There are a lot of familiar faces, for sure. A lot of the ushers are still kicking around.
I always circled Toronto on my calendar. It is something where I was lucky enough to get out there at center ice at the ACC at the time. I would go out there before or after morning skates sometimes. My dad would kind of let me get dressed beside Mats’ stall before anyone got there and dump a bucket of pucks at center ice. I will never forget the feeling of skating around out there, looking at the seats, and thinking, “This would be the coolest thing in the world playing in this rink with every seat filled, playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
There is a lot of visualization over the years that goes into that. It is a special feeling. It is a dream come true. It really is. It is something I have thought about for a long time. I have dreamed of it over and over again.
I have a lot of buddies who are super excited and a lot of family members that are super excited, with myself being at the forefront of that. I just can’t wait to get started.
Was the one-year deal just the ideal with the economics of everything? Were you looking at something longer? How did the first couple of days of free agency play out?
Domi: A lot of teams are pretty strapped. The flat cap makes it difficult. My agents made the rounds. When I found out Toronto was as interested as they were, it was basically a no-brainer. Kind of both ends, we were like, “Let’s make this work.” I was willing to do whatever it took to help that process kind of end the way we were hoping for, and that is with me playing for the Leafs in the fall.
The contract worked out. Obviously, the team was able to make things work on their end. I am more happy with how things worked out. I am looking forward to the challenge and jumping in wherever needs be for Keefer and the boys here to help them win hockey games.
You want security and whatnot, but when you are trying to win, it is difficult to do whatever you have to do. You can’t have everything. To me, the most important thing was winning. If that was taking a little less money or term or whatever it might be, it was a no-brainer. I believe in this group and am a big fan of them. I am just looking forward to being a part of it.