MONTREAL - Max Domi grew up in a certain hockey hotbed on the other side of the 401 and had a front-row seat to see what it's like to play for a storied Original Six franchise.
Now, he gets to do it himself.
Domi's dad, Tie, was a longtime enforcer for Toronto, and Domi affirms the former Maple Leaf is all smiles about where his son has just landed.
"He's ecstatic; he can't wait. It's very close to home, he'll be able to tune into a lot more games," described the younger Domi of his father, who spent 777 games in a Maple Leafs uniform between 1989-2006. "He's pumped. My whole life, he raised me to watch him in the spotlight he was in. I saw how well he performed, and guys like Mats Sundin and all those other guys on the Leafs, who really showed everyone that performing under pressure is a skill and it's in their DNA. That's how I was raised. He's excited."
The 23-year-old is eager to follow in his father's footsteps and make his mark in Montreal, and will be able to draw on his childhood memories for guidance in his new hockey home.
"I was fortunate enough to grow up in an atmosphere like that in Toronto. It's a little bit different than Montreal, but Toronto is one of the biggest hockey markets as well, and my dad was a big part of that. He still is," said Domi, who earned 45 points [9G, 36A] last season in Arizona. "I got to witness that firsthand, and it was definitely something I looked up to. I wanted to see myself in those shoes one day, and I think I topped him with coming to Montreal. I'm really excited about that."
Video: SJS@ARI: Domi fires a wrister past Jones for a PPG
After 222 games in a Coyotes uniform, Domi - who confided he was a bit surprised to find out he'd been moved - is dealing with a mixed bag of emotions, but the thought of throwing on a Habs sweater means he won't be spending too much time looking in the rearview mirror.
"It's been a crazy last 12 hours or so, but I'm absolutely thrilled. It's been pretty emotional, but I can't wait," beamed Domi, who spoke to reporters via conference call on Saturday. "There isn't a more historic or more incredible franchise in all of sports, forget about just hockey, that comes along than the Montreal Canadiens. I couldn't be more excited to join my new teammates, and I'm really looking forward to the new journey we're going to go on here."
One of those new teammates, Brendan Gallagher, played with Domi on the Team Canada squad that brought home gold at the 2016 World Hockey Championship, and praised him for his unique combination of grit and playmaking ability.
"He plays extremely hard, he competes hard, but he's a pass-first kind of guy. It was shocking at times, the way he sees the game," Gallagher said of Domi, who also owns gold from the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and 2015 World Junior Championship. "If you're out on the ice with him, you have to be ready to shoot the puck, because he's looking to feed his linemates, which is always nice to play with."
Gallagher, who spoke to Domi briefly after the Canadiens swapped for him with the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night, believes his enthusiasm for his new city is well-placed and will suit him nicely.
"I think he's going to thrive in a market like Montreal. I think fans will really come to appreciate the style of game he plays and the energy he's going to bring. Montreal is going to be really good for him, and I know he's really excited about the opportunity," outlined Gallagher of Domi, who has 135 points (36G, 99A) in his three seasons in the League, which amounts to .608 points per game. "He's looking forward to the opportunity to come to Montreal to play in a market and in front of fans like we have."
Although Domi didn't produce up to the level he was hoping he would in 2017-18, he confirms that the mental side of the game had a big impact on his success in the later part of the season, and that his willingness to give it everything he has should help him keep that up in the next chapter of his career.
"It comes down to confidence, I think, in this League. When you go out there and you know you can do stuff, you do it," explained Domi, who notched 19 points in his last 22 games. "As soon as you start second-guessing that or questioning yourself to any extent, that's when you run into trouble.
"The way I've always been my entire life is a guy who will go out there every shift, work as hard as he possibly can, and do whatever he has to do to help the team win. That's all that matters to me," he concluded. "It's awesome; that's what makes hockey fun, is competing every shift."