Max Domi remembers the day he met Philadelphia Flyers legend Bobby Clarke as “one of the cooler moments of my life”. It was the day he realized he could still live his childhood dream.
Like Domi, Clarke had type-1 diabetes, but still became a Hall of Fame player for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was proof for then 13-year-old Domi that the disease couldn’t halt his ambitions.
Now 21 and a young star for the Arizona Coyotes, Domi is trying to do for others what Clarke did for him. He’s partnered with Ascensia Diabetes Care, a diabetes care company, to educate and inspire others living with the disease.
“Having that motivation and that person to relate to and look up to is something that goes a long way,” said Domi, who wears the No. 16 as a tribute to Clarke. “It’s tough to make the NHL as it is, but when you have something like that it can set you back a little bit, but there’s no reason it should ever get in your way.
“Because once you find a way to deal with it and manage it you’re just like everyone else.”
Domi was 12 when he was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. His first question for the doctor at the time — could he still play hockey? — received a resounding yes. His ambitions were further stoked when he met Clarke at a hockey tournament in Whitby, Ont.
His mother approached the Flyers executive and relayed her son’s story. Clarke popped over to say hi and posed for a picture with Domi, the son of long-time NHL tough guy Tie Domi.
The younger Domi realized his story, too, was a powerful source of motivation for others years later when TSN ran a story about him during the world junior championships. He said video of the story went viral and soon kids were reaching out through social media with their own questions and experiences.
He’s taken the advocacy one step further with the new initiative, which features a website (poweredbyaccurary.ca) designed to act as a “resource and support system for people managing diabetes”.
Domi will answer diabetes-related questions on the site and act as a face for the campaign. He’s learned to capably manage the disease, testing his blood sugar as many as eight times during a single game and every 20-25 minutes during practice, as told in a story for the Players’ Tribune website.
Domi is sharing his story to help others live comfortably with diabetes, which affects more than 11 million Canadians. Many of them feel uncomfortable disclosing their illness, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Domi has not only lived with diabetes, but thrived.
The eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft, he finished with 18 goals and 52 points for the Coyotes last season, trailing only the Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin and Sabres’ Jack Eichel among rookies. His season was almost forgotten in a year which saw the Oilers’ Connor McDavid, Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere and Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin also shine.
In the playoff mix for about half of last season, Arizona reshuffled its deck somewhat this off-season, hiring a new GM (27-year-old John Chayka) in a major front office restructuring, while also adding Alex Goligoski and Luke Schenn to the roster and re-signing captain Shane Doan.
Domi believes the group, which tied for 10th in the west and seems likely to add 19-year-old phenom Dylan Strome, has playoff potential for next season.
“You can’t take a night off and it’s not that we took nights off this year, it’s just (that) it’s very challenging to maintain that same ability,” said Domi. “As a young guy that didn’t experience that before experiencing it last year has helped me out quite a bit.”