By Stephen Laroche | Beckett Hockey Editor
Sometimes, an athlete has to work through tremendous adversity in order to make it to the professional level. There are major sacrifices to make along the way, but the struggle can become even greater when that athlete is also a Type 1 diabetic and needs to manage their illness while putting forth an almost super-human effort to fulfill their dreams.
In the case of Arizona Coyotes left winger Max Domi, he has not only managed to make it to the NHL as one of last season’s top rookie performers, but he is also focused on helping raise funds and awareness along the way. Scheduled to make an autograph appearance at Frameworth in Toronto on July 19, the affable and gregarious sophomore is ready to meet with his fans and connect with those who share the same battle with diabetes.
“Other than hockey, that’s the rest of my life right now,” he told Beckett Hockey. “I’m trying to reach out and have an easy way of communicating with many people and diabetics, but mainly kids dealing with the disease. I’m just trying to tell my story and show them what I did to get where I am now and how I didn’t let diabetes get in my way one bit. I’m just trying to show that there’s nothing wrong and there’s nothing that’s going to hold you back in terms of your disease and it’s very manageable. It may be complex, but myself and there’s all kinds of professional athletes that are living proof that it’s not going to stop you from accomplishing your dreams.”
A portion of the event’s proceeds, which is also sponsored by Contour Diabetes Solutions, will be donated to help support diabetes research and advocacy. Domi is partnered Ascensia Diabetes Care in an effort to spread awareness.
“They’re the biggest when it comes to diabetes research and they’re helping me out with trying to get my message out there. We’re working together to spread as much awareness of diabetes as we can and they’ve given me a really big stage here to share my story and they’ll be there at the signing and they’ll be helping me give stuff away. I’m hoping to see a lot of diabetics there and I’d love to just hang out with them and talk to them. It’s kind of the main reason I’m really pushing this is because I want to reach out to as many people as possible while I’m in Canada.”
Prices for signatures start at $45.00 CDN and this will be Domi’s only public signing in Canada this year. Personalizations or inscription tickets may also be purchased. As a bonus, there is also a Priority Access Ticket which gives autograph seekers early access plus a chance to have a professional photo taken with Domi.
Frameworth has also created a contest to go along with the event which sees the first 200 customers purchasing autograph tickets getting a chance to win a signed and framed Domi Coyotes jersey. The draw will take place during the public signing. For those who are interested in a more personal experience, there is a meet & greet package which does include a signed Team Canada jersey and other items in addition to a chance for personal interaction with Domi and his service dog, Orion.
“It’s unbelievable,” Domi remarked when asked about what it means to him to have a service dog. “I love dogs. It’s insane how smart these dogs are. It really is incredible and I joke about it with people all the time and say my dog is smarter than I am! I’m not even kidding, he probably is smarter than me. He comes most places with me and he is man’s best friend. No matter what’s going on in my day, I come back home and he always finds a way to put a smile on my face. I love him to death and I don’t know what my life would be like without him.
“In terms of the diabetes side of things, though, the most important part for me is when I go to sleep at night and that’s when you run into a little bit of a scare sometimes when your blood sugar drops. Sometimes it can be masked by just being tired, and my dog is not letting me go back to sleep if I get into that danger zone.”
Domi explained why he loves to do public autograph signings.
“I did a couple in Arizona and I’ve done them in the past with our teams and I did a couple in London, Ontario. They’re great. I love interacting with people and getting to know some of the fans and just kind of showing my appreciation for all of their support because realistically, none of us would be where we are without their support. They’re a big part of it. It’s just a great way to get connected with them and get up to date with what’s going on in my life and their lives and to just kind of share some stories and have some fun. I like hanging out with people and getting to know people, so it’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t have passed up and I’m really excited about the signing.”
“We at Frameworth are very excited to have Max Domi into the Frameworth Sports and Entertainment Centre on July 19th and are happy to be a part of his endeavors to raise funds in support of diabetes research and advocacy,” echoed Frameworth’s E-Commerce Manager, Nick Grant.
As a youth, Domi was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump to regulate his blood sugar levels during games. Inspired by Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke, who also battled the condition during his career, he wears the same number, 16, on his jersey.
“It definitely does impact my routine for sure, but it’s so tapered and so customized for me that I know exactly what I have to do on every game day to feel at my best and ready to play. Everyone’s going to have a different routine that they’re going to need to execute in order to be ready to go and at the level of the NHL, you’ve got to be ready for 82 games a year. You can’t take a night off and it’s the hardest hockey in the world.
“For me personally, it might be a bit more excessive than other guys, but it’s just something that I’ve had to do and I know what I have to feel like in order to play at my best. I’m really familiar with that feeling, so for me, it’s just like clockwork now. I have a routine for a practice day. I have a routine for a work day. I have a routine for a workout day, an off-day. Depending on my travel, I’ll adjust everything accordingly to that. This year, for me obviously, was my rookie year and I’m just trying to get my feet wet and learn what the league is all about, but at the same time, I was worried about myself and how I can manage my diabetes as efficiently as possible. Your health is your priority and for me, to be able to perform at the best for my profession, which is hockey, I’ve got to take care of my health first.
“I might have to do a couple of things that my teammates don’t have to, but definitely getting respect for my peers because they watch you and they observe and see what you go through and the extra miles you put on yourself. You definitely get some respect and it’s really humbling and I take pride in it.”
A second-generation player, Domi rose to prominence as a member of the perennial powerhouse London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League before being taken 12th overall by the then-Phoenix Coyotes in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
While many initially expected Domi to make the Coyotes roster out of training camp prior to the 2014-15 season, he was surprisingly sent back down to the junior ranks. In his final go-round with the Knights, he put together a strong 102-point effort and his commitment to the game was recognized with the Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy. He played a crucial role in helping Canada to a long-awaited gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship and capped off his OHL days with a Memorial Cup victory.
Facing his first pro season, Domi started the 2015-16 campaign with Arizona and never looked back. During his NHL debut against the Los Angeles Kings, he had a goal and an assist and repeated the feat twice more in the three games that followed.
Growing up in Toronto as his father, Tie, played for the Maple Leafs, Domi was a regular visitor to the Air Canada Centre and his on-ice debut there as an NHL player was a memorable one on October 26. He scored the opening goal on the power play that night and teammates even played a memorable joke on him as he stepped out onto the ice alone during the warm-up.
He ranked among the rookie scoring leaders over the first few months of the season and even generated some Calder Trophy buzz as he produced at a relatively consistent clip, which included his first professional hat trick while facing the Edmonton Oilers on January 12. Naturally, collectors became interested in his early cards as well.
“It’s awesome,” he said about seeing his first NHL cards. “The cards are unbelievable. I love looking at them and it’s pretty cool to see everyone collecting them. You hear from people all over the place that the prices on eBay are crazy and it’s just really cool to see. That’s pretty special, but unfortunately, I haven’t got my hands on any of them. I’d love to get some cards in my hands just to look at them, but overall, the whole thing about hockey cards is so special and I grew up collecting cards, too. To be on a card now is awesome and they’re doing a great job with it.”
But does Domi have any cards of his father in his collection?
“I don’t even know if I have one of my dad’s cards. No, I’m just kidding! I have a couple of them, but I was more leaning towards the Mats Sundin and Mario Lemieux cards. Those were the guys that I was obsessed with and loved to watch, so when I got my hands on those kind of cards, it was pretty cool.”
Domi finished the year with 18 goals and 34 assists for 52 points, good enough to rank second on the team in scoring behind defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Since the Coyotes did not end up making it into the postseason, Domi chose to once again represent his country and participated in the 2016 IIHF World Championship, scoring a goal on the way to more gold.
Does Domi feel that his rookie season was a success?
“Obviously, I’m going to say no, because we didn’t make the playoffs and unfortunately, that’s a tough pill to swallow. It was definitely a learning curve for our entire group and we’re all really excited for having a future here. We’ve proved that we can beat anyone in the league when we show up and then play every single night. Moving forward, we just have to keep that consistency up and after Christmas, everyone’s saying ‘alright, the easy part’s over for you now and you’re going to get tested a lot.’ The second half is when teams start picking up their play and elevating their play and everyone is trying to make the playoffs. You believe that, but you don’t actually understand it until you go through it and you do hit that wall. To get through that wall, you’ve got to really lean on your teammates and you’ve got to keep your mind in neutral and just keep plugging away and keep digging game by game.
“For me, it was great. I really learned a lot and I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some pretty special people, whether it’s guys like Mike Smith, Shane Doan, or Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The list of veterans on our team that have helped our young group out a lot is unbelievable and we wouldn’t have had any of the success we did this year without the help of them. Our whole team, there was definitely some bright spots during the year and we’ve just got to build off of those and move forward from the not-so-bright spots.”
For complete details on Domi’s signing at Frameworth, click here.
Stephen Laroche is the editor of Beckett Hockey, Beckett Basketball, and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter@Stephen_Laroche.