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Too tough to leave

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO -- In the end Tie Domi couldn't leave the town that's so close to his heart.

The enforcer has decided to stay in Hogtown, signing a multi-year deal with the Maple Leafs. Terms were not announced by the team but the contract is worth between $5 and $6 million (all figures U.S.) according to Leafs assistant to the president Bill Watters.

"You use your imagination at times like this and I just couldn't envision myself wearing any other sweater," Domi said.

Tie Domi just couldn't leave Toronto.
Graig Abel Photography
"Tie has been an integral part of our team mosaic for eight years. We fully intended to re-sign him," Watters said. "It was a matter of him testing the free-agent market for the first time and making up his mind."

Interest in the 32-year-old winger was high. At least four teams made substantial offers but in the end it was his connection to the city and Leaf fans that made him decide to stay put.

"I was overwhelmed at the start (on July 1) when four teams called at about 12:01," Domi said. "It was up to 16 teams at one point, then (agent Pat Morris) and I went down to eight and then four.

"Talking to (Dallas Stars coach) Dave Tippett and (Chicago Blackhawks coach) Brian Sutter, they were up front with me about being in their top nine forwards," Domi said. "Anaheim jumped in late and that would have been something (possibly playing with Paul Kariya and Adam Oates or at least Petr Sykora and Steve Rucchin)."

There were benefits of playing in each of those cities," Pat Morris, Domi's agent, said. "But in the end, his loyalty to the Toronto organization and his desire to stay here outweighed those options."

The Leafs are content that a deal could finally be reached.

"I thought it would go on forever," said Watters. "We were never in a position where we didn't want to sign Tie. We always wanted him."

Domi is the second player to agree to terms with the Leafs since July 1. Goaltender Ed Belfour signed after Curtis Joseph decided to leave for the Detroit Red Wings.

Last season, the rugged winger scored nine goals and added 10 assists in 74 games. In his time with Toronto, he's had 57 goals, 74 assists and an all-time franchise record 1,777 penalty minutes.

His career total of 3,027 penalty minutes ranks him ninth on the NHL's all-time list.

Domi was drafted by the Leafs, 27th overall, in the 1988 draft. After five seasons with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets, he was re-acquired by the Leafs in 1995 in exchange for Mike Eastwood and Toronto's third choice (Brad Isbister) in that year's draft.

"I had a good heart to heart with (general manager/coach) Pat Quinn before I signed. There are no guarantees (about playiong time). But this is my home and where my heart is. I would be going to a new team, in a new situation where I would be expected to fight everybody. I don't think I have to prove myself like that again."

-- with files from AP
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