Domi, who has Type 1 diabetes, fielded questions from youngsters age five to 17 while promoting the Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes on June 9.
Max Domi says he had only one question when he learned, at age 12, he had Type 1 diabetes.
“I wanted to know if I could still play hockey,” Domi said Tuesday as he shared his experiences with 13 youngsters dealing with the disease. “My doctor asked me if I had ever heard of Bobby Clarke. I said I hadn’t and he told that Bobby Clarke had diabetes and payed in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup. That was my dream and I felt better when I learned about Bobby Clarke.”
The Canadiens’ centre is the national spokesman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundationand will be participating in the Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes on June 9. But on Tuesday, he was just another guy coping with diabetes as he fielded questions from youngsters who ranged in age from five to 17.
“I’m fortunate to be playing in the NHL, but my experiences are just like yours,” he said. “I remember when I learned that I had diabetes, I was scared. I hated needles. I didn’t know how it was going to change my life. But I learned that if you were responsible, if you checked your levels and took care of yourself, you can do almost anything. You can’t be in the army and you can’t be a commercial pilot and not everyone is going to end up in the NHL, but you can be a teacher or a lawyer.”
When he was first told he had Type 1 diabetes, Domi said he was reluctant to share the information with his friends.
“I can understand why you don’t want to be seen as someone who’s different, but the best thing you can do is to help educate people about diabetes,” Domi said. “Explain to them why you can’t eat some things. I also have celiac disease, which means I’m gluten-intolerant and I know it’s tough when you go to a birthday party and you can’t eat the cake.”
Domi said learning to live with diabetes came with its share of problems and he could identify with teenagers who wanted to take responsibility for controlling their diabetes.
“I’m not perfect, I made mistakes,” he admitted. “I had a lot of help from my mother and my father. They were always asking whether I checked my (blood sugar) levels. As I got older, I took more responsibility, but just like hockey, you have to think that you’re part of a team with your parents and your doctors.
Domi said he had only one brief interaction with the former player he calls Mr Clarke, but Clarke’s success served as inspiration for him. So much so that he changed his minor hockey number.
When he was growing up, Max spent a lot of time hanging around the Toronto Maple Leafs locker room because his father, Tie, was the Leafs’ resident tough guy. The younger Domi idolized Leafs star Mats Sundin and he appropriated Sundin’s No. 13.
“Mats was my hero, but when I learned about Mr. Clarke, I asked my father’s permission to change my number to 16,” Domi said.
Domi, who had a breakout season in his first year with the Canadiens, said playing in the NHL requires a lot of preparation.
“I can’t find myself in a situation where I have a low during a game,” said Domi. “There are so many different factors that affect how you feel, your sugar levels, the adrenalin you feel during a game. I start getting ready 24 hours before the game and I make sure that I eat the right foods, get enough sleep. I test to make sure my levels are where they should be. If anything, I over-test to make sure. There are nights when you don’t have it, but I’ve never had a problem because of diabetes.”
Domi said there is sometimes a danger of going too low after a game and he has a support dog, a yellow Labrador named Orion, who senses when he might have problems at night.
Domi said there was disappointment when the Canadiens missed the playoffs in the final week of the season and he ruefully noted that he was watching the playoffs on TV for the fourth year in a row after three losing seasons in Arizona. He’s taking more joy from the Toronto Raptors’ run to the NBA final and he and his father were in attendance when the Raptors eliminated Milwaukee in Game 6.
“It’s good for Toronto and it’s good for Canada,” Domi said.
The Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes in the Montreal area will take place June 9 at Centre de la nature de Laval. There will be a run beginning at 8:30 a.m. followed by the walk at 10 a.m. Domi is inviting Montrealers to join him.
“I grew up in Toronto, but I’m a Canadien now and I want to beat Toronto at everything and that includes the Walk for the Cure,” Domi said. “I’m encouraging everyone to get on social media and create interest in this event so we can beat Toronto.
Anyone who wants more information on the walk can call Jessica at 514-744-5537, Local 247, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.