Hockey players are creatures of habit. Their lives are ruled by routine. Sleeping, eating, training, each day is meticulously planned out. For Max Domi, that’s his life as well, but as a Type 1 diabetic, there’s even more he has to worry about on a daily basis.
The Montreal Canadiens forward has been living with diabetes since he was 12 years old. The routine of making sure Domi gets the right doses of insulin, constantly checking his blood sugar levels, ensuring he’s eating the right foods, properly hydrating, and taking the right natural supplements to help his immune system, along with trying to maintain his talent as a professional hockey player is his life. It’s the reason why his recently released book is titled, “No Days Off: My Life with Type 1 Diabetes and Journey to the NHL”
“Everything I do is calculated, it’s for a reason, it’s different, and something I put a lot of time and effort into,” Domi told NBC Sports this week. “I’m still adapting and making changes with doctors and trainers.”
When Domi was younger, he wasn’t as strict with staying on top of dealing with his diabetes. He wanted to be like other kids, but not keeping to his new routine affected his play on the ice. One day, he told himself that if he wanted to move up the ladder in hockey and one day play in the NHL he would have to make changes.
Domi had already seen what could be possible if he was smart about treating the disease. When he was 13, he met Philadelphia Flyers legend Bobby Clarke, also a Type 1 diabetic, at the International Silver Stick tournament in Whitby, Ontario. Given that his father, Tie, was an NHLer, the younger Domi was used to meeting famous people. But his interaction with Clarke had a profound effect on him. From then on, he understood that it was possible to play hockey at a higher level even with such a dramatic shift in his daily life.
When Domi was diagnosed, his family didn’t know much about the disease and didn’t understand what went into the care. They soon learned how much their lives would change.
“It was a culture shock for my entire family, which I think a lot of families can relate to,” Domi said. “You kind of get hit by a truck and it’s very overwhelming. You just take it in stride and you get better and better, and it gets easier and easier every day. You just learn about all the different aspects of the disease. There’s a lot of different variables. It’s an extremely complex disease and it’s not something you can just flip the switch on or off.
“You’re on 24/7, and from the day you’re diagnosed you’re always learning. I’m still learning today and I’m playing at the highest level of my sport as possible and I’m still making mistakes and I’m still learning from them every single day. It speaks to how complex this disease is, and it’s not going anywhere. It’s with you and you can’t take a second off.”
Along with the book, Domi has also designed a special Bauer stick that he is using for Montreal’s 13 November games to further raise awareness about Type 1 diabetes.
Some of the specific elements on the stick include the skylines of Montreal and Toronto, his hometown; his caduceus tattoo; the names and number of every Canadiens player who has their jersey retired within the Bauer logo; the names of Clarke, Mats Sundin, his idol, and his service dog, Orion, who was trained as a puppy to detect through scent when Domi’s blood sugar levels are off; and the title of his book.
There are a limited number of sticks, with some being distributed as prizes through Domi’s social media channels and the rest auctioned off to benefit the forward’s charity, The Max Domi Fund for Type 1 Diabetes.
“I know when I was a kid I always wanted rare sticks like that and sticks that were one-of-one, so it’s pretty special,” he said.
Since meeting with Clarke a decade ago, Domi has wanted to use his platform to make a difference in the lives of fellow Type 1 diabetics. When he meets with kids who have the disease the most common question he gets is how he can play hockey at such a high level while dealing with it every day. He’s sure to emphasis with them and their parents that what they have to go through isn’t easy and everyone has a different path.
As he becomes the face for the disease to many, Domi is eager to continue the fight.
“It’s amazing the tight-knit community we have and how much we can help one another and make a difference in this community,” he said. “We’re all trying to find a cure. We’re all trying to make our lives a lot easier, and that’s what we’re doing and that’s my main goal with this whole thing — to help as many kids out as possible and show them you can have a dream in your life and you can do whatever you want.
“You can still have Type 1 diabetes and it’s not going to get in your way and you can turn it into a positive one way or another.”
Kathryn Tappen will anchor tonight’s studio coverage with Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter. John Forslund and Mike Milbury will have the call from Bell Centre in Montreal, Que.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.