The summer started earlier than Max Domi would have liked. Perhaps that goes with the territory of belonging to the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes. But being a Type 1 diabetic, Domi is used to turning a negative into a positive. So he decided to put his extra time off to good use, using his status as an elite athlete to raise awareness about diabetes. The Star’s Kevin McGran talked with Domi about his season, and his disease:
I’m guessing summer came too soon?
Way too soon. It’s getting a little old at this point, this being my third year in this position, but we made some good strides the last 25 games of the season. Our whole group is pretty confident. We realize we can win in this league, and what our potential is. With our young guys, our two goalies and veteran leadership, it’s going to be a special group moving forward. We just have to start believing that, and from the first puck drop, be ready to go.
What went wrong with the Coyotes this year?
It was a tough start (6-18-4 through the first two months). When you dig yourself that much of a hole, it’s almost impossible to get out. The one positive is, with a young group you saw a lot of character (17-13-3 after the all-star break). A lot of us were struggling and tried to work out of that … We just wanted to finish with the right foot forward and carry that momentum into next season.
As a London Knights alum, you’re way more used to winning than losing, right?
Yeah. Especially with my dad (ex-Leaf Tie Domi), too. He’s always preaching it’s all about the team, and nothing else matters but winning. When you’re brought up that way, and you play with an organization like London where all you do is win, and your coaches are winners, it’s part of your DNA. When you don’t have that anymore, it’s definitely frustrating and a reality check. You have to find a way to get through that and change the culture. Bringing in (coach) Rick Tocchet is a great way to go about that.
Your own numbers were way off, just nine goals and 36 assists on the season, and just three goals in your first 55 games. What happened?
It’s part of growing. It was bad. I’m totally open about that. When you look at yourself as someone who is supposed to be helping the team go to the right direction and your team starts losing, and you put the blame on yourself, it’s a learning curve. If you’re not used to losing, you struggle. For me, it took a lot longer to get through it than I would have liked.
Tell me about living with diabetes and why you got involved in this program.
I signed up with (Ascensia Diabetes Care, a global health company) four years ago. It’s a great opportunity for me to have a platform to tell my story about living with this disease and how you can accomplish your dreams. It’s a sort of adversity, but you find a way to get through it and turn it into a positive. It makes you stronger. It’s a big reason why I’m in the NHL. It forces you to mature. It teaches you how to manage yourself, whether it’s nutrition, sleep, time management. You’re always trying to build your tool box, build your team around you. For me, it’s about having the best of the best, whether it’s doctors, nurses or trainers. Ascensia just launched a new app (Contour Diabetes) with a setting there called My Patterns. It takes all the data, breaks it down and feeds it back to you. It’s like having a doctor wherever you go. As an athlete, you’ve got to take care of all the variables (so) you just have to show up and play hockey. To have a piece of equipment like this is outstanding.
How is your life different on a day-to-day basis from a player who doesn’t have diabetes?
Quite a bit. For me, it’s not just having a good nap and showing up for the game a few hours before and having a good meal. It’s 24 hours leading up to it. The No. 1 thing for me that trumps everything is my blood sugar. If my blood sugar is not great, my performance will be hindered. Because of that I have to take all the precautions necessary, and do all the extra work to make sure you’re on an even playing field. That’s not a bad thing. It really does enhance your performance if you do it the right way, and putting extra effort in makes you disciplined. It’s part of who I am. I don’t know if I would be in the NHL if it wasn’t for having to deal with this disease. It goes to dealing with adversity, to have to manage something that’s thrown at you and you’re not really ready for it, but you figure it out.
How many days are you alarmed at your blood sugar levels?
You can’t let your guard down. This is a full-time job, to look after myself. It’s a huge responsibility. You can’t miss a meal. You can’t be like your buddies. You have to stick to the plan all the time. It’s a narrow mindset, taking things minute by minute, but you have to realize what I do right now will affect my performance in three days or will help my performance in four months. A Type 1 diabetic doesn’t have a choice.
When did you find out you were Type 1 diabetic.
I was 12 years old, and the first question I asked was if I could still play hockey. The doc looked at me and laughed and said: “Are you crazy? Don’t you know who Bobby Clarke is?” I said no. A little bit embarrassed because he is before my time. The doc said, “Well, he was the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers and won the Stanley Cup, and just like you he had Type 1 diabetes. If he could do it before all this technology, so can you. So I’ll see you in the NHL.”