Players’ Tribune: Max Domi on challenges of playing with diabetes

Max Domi had a big week with 4 goals, 2 assists and a ridiculous +6 over 3 games. No surprise he beat out the rest of the NHL's freshman class to take our rookie of the week honours.

The daily grind of the NHL is difficult for most young players but it’s especially difficult for a player who has to deal with the challenges of a life-altering disease.

On Thursday, Arizona Coyotes forward Max Domi opened up about how he grapples with his Type 1 diabetes in a first-person article for the Players’ Tribune.

“In general, people think being diagnosed with diabetes means swapping butter tarts and cookies for healthy (aka not fun) alternatives,” Domi wrote. “But it’s a lot more complicated than that, particularly for Type 1 diabetics like myself. My blood sugar is affected by many other things other than my food intake, including exercise, stress, an illness and hormones, just to name a few.”

In addition to carefully monitoring his food intake, one of Domi's biggest challenges, his primary concern for the most part is ensuring his blood sugar stays level, which becomes increasingly difficult on game days.

"Getting a high number, you get pretty irritable (just ask my teammates)," he explained. "Tons of mood swings. You get tired real quick. When you’re on the ice during a high, it’s almost like bag skating after every 25-second shift. Then going low, you get a little loopy – you’re just not as sharp. You do not want to be loopy when you’re trying to avoid guys who want to run you over."

As he's gotten older, he said he's gotten more comfortable with his game-day routine but he still needs to test his sugars multiple times throughout any given game.

"Before a game, I’ll test a couple of times.

Then halfway through the first period, and after the first period.

Then halfway through the second period, and after the second period.

Then halfway through the third period, and after the third period.

Don’t ask if the game goes into overtime."

His daily routine begins in the morning when he's woken up by his service dog, Orion, who he said has a unique ability to determine when his blood sugar gets "out of range."

Otherwise, Domi touched on why NHL legend Bobby Clarke is such an important figure in his life and what it was like to grow up as the son of former Toronto Maple Leafs fan favourite Tie Domi.

"When you’re raised by a hockey dad like mine, your discipline level goes through the roof," Domi wrote. "Some games I’d get a hat trick and be so pumped to get back to the car to hear what my dad had to say. And I’d be met with, 'You gotta back-check better,' or, 'You gotta pay attention to the little details — you lost your guy here and you turned over the puck there.' I’d be like, 'K. Got it. What about the three goals?'

"After games, for a good hour or more, depending on the traffic, I would sit and get my ear chomped off. My dad’s the most honest person you’ll ever meet. He gave it to me straight. And I listened and got better, which is a lot better than just celebrating all the goals I scored."