Sarah McLellan, azcentral sports
Some would arrive with a prepared list of questions spanning the length of a notepad.
Others would rattle off whatever seemed to come to mind.
“What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite animal? What’s your favorite dinosaur?”
But regardless of the content of the conversation, all of the children who met winger Max Domi appeared to say goodbye in better spirits than when they were introduced at hello.
“Every single one of them would always be happy after they left I think,” Domi said. “So that was pretty much the goal. Now they can share their stories with other kids down the road. That’s kind of the whole reason I’m doing it is to show how much power they really have.”
During the last few months of his junior career in the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights, Domi would chat with children and families affected by diabetes after home games.
A Type 1 diabetic since he was 12 years old, Domi has worked to shine a spotlight on the fact the disease hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his dream of being a professional hockey player.
“It’s really rewarding, like, ‘Wow, you’re making a difference in someone else’s life,'” he said.
Domi appears on TV commercials in Canada, a face of Bayer’s diabetes care campaign. With every video share online, Bayer makes a $1 donation to diabetes research. Even actor Mark Wahlberg – a family friend of the Domi’s – posted the link on social media.
“He was pretty happy with my acting skills,” Domi said.
After shooting the commercial, Domi went on a media tour during the summer – making public appearances and conducting radio interviews to spread awareness.
“The feedback was great,” he said. “There’s a lot of kids reaching out to us and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters to me. If I’m trying to make a difference in all these kids’ lives, then I’m doing something right.”
The 20-year-old was also recognized by the OHL for his leadership and work in the community, particularly as it relates to diabetes, with the Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy.
“He’s an inspiration to everyone around him,” said Domi’s mom, Leanne.
Not long after he was diagnosed, Domi met Bobby Clarke, a Type 1 diabetic who played 15 years in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers. Clarke is the one who motivated Domi to change his jersey number from 13 to Clarke’s 16.
Considering the impact Clarke’s visit had on Domi, he was eager to meet with sometimes 10 kids after games. Some would even ask him to sign their insulin pumps.
“That hits home for me pretty deep just because I know how much Bobby Clarke did for me and how much two minutes of his time made a world of a difference for me,” Domi said.
Even though he’s graduated to the NHL, Domi’s desire to help hasn’t disappeared. He’s already been asked by some Coyotes personnel if he’d be open to being a resource for local diabetics in the Valley, and his answer was, “I’ll do absolutely anything.”
“Most of us in this life, we’re not given that ability,” Leanne said. “We don’t get to make a difference like that to people. He does, and he’s been really good about doing it.”
And amid a rising profile as a rookie in Arizona, it’s likely Domi’s platform to inspire will only grow in time.
“I won’t be a hockey player forever,” he said, “so it’s a pretty short window to make a difference.”