Domi reflects on time with Coyotes ahead of Habs' trip to Arizona
As a child, Max Domi remembers filling out a health form and seeing all the boxes for health restrictions. At the time, he took a certain pride in not having to check them off. Now that he has Type 1 diabetes since being diagnosed at age 12 and celiac disease (gluten allergy), requiring him to check those boxes off, Domi jokingly says that “karma is a bitch.”
Having Type 1 diabetes while carving out an NHL career led to Domi publishing a memoir titled No Days Off. A national spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a part of the proceeds from the book will go towards JDRF.
It was his desire to share his story that led Domi to writing a full-fledged book about his diabetes.
“You don’t have enough time in a day to talk to everyone out there dealing with Type 1 diabetes,” Domi told TSN.ca. “I figured share my story and put it in print and let kids and their parents and friends, classmates and teachers and coaches, read it and understand what I went through.”
Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin, a hormone that helps the body to control the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. The disease is treated with insulin injections and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. According to Diabetes Canada, approximately 10 per cent of people living with diabetes in Canada have Type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes hasn’t stopped Domi from having a full-fledged NHL career. A first-round pick (12th overall) of the Arizona Coyotes, the 24-year-old has since moved on to Montreal, where he broke out offensively with 28 goals and 72 points in 82 games last season. He proudly says he’s never missed a shift in the NHL because of low or high blood sugar.
As a diabetic, a lot of Domi’s day revolves around testing his blood, trying to stay in range, counting carbs and eating well. As a Type 1 diabetic, there are a lot of variables that can impact a person’s blood sugar, including being dehydrated, sick, stressed and/or run down. He says that the people close to him can tell when his blood sugar is off.
“Honestly it’s hilarious now. Guys can actually know, more my close buddies can know, when my blood sugar is off. Girlfriends in the past have been able to know when my blood sugar is off. My parents know, my sisters know, just because I’m not myself,” says Domi.
These days, Domi wears a CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) device, which tracks glucose levels throughout the day and gives real-time readings via smartphone. He also has his diabetic alert dog, Orion, who can alert Domi to when he is out of range, including waking him up in the middle of the night. He even has a full-time personal chef, who has him on a whole food, gluten-free diet.
While Domi has numerous tools at his disposal to help him manage his diabetes, he admits it can take its toll on mental health.
“There’s so much pressure on yourself, so much going on that you have to be aware of and the responsibility of your health at a young age is something that really wears on people and I think nowadays with social media and all that stuff that it’s also directly leading to mental health, I think when you have a disease like this one, you literally can’t take a day off. It’s wearing on you,” says Domi.
“If you don’t have a team around you and all the tools in your toolbox to kind of handle that stuff, it’s tough. I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s not fun and you got to find ways to deal with that.”
He admits he had some hiccups during his first training camp with the Coyotes but credits the team’s then-trainer Jason Serbus for helping him learn how to take control of his diabetes to the next level.
“He [Serbus] is the first one to tell me ‘Man, I didn’t think you’d be able to do it and you proved me wrong and I couldn’t be happier to be wrong,’” says Domi.
As for what the common question he gets from diabetic kids and their parents, Domi says it circles back to one theme.
“The main question I get is ‘What do you do?’ or ‘How do you do it?’” says Domi. “At the end of the day, if you want something bad and you’re willing to put the work in and make the sacrifices and commit to it 100 per cent, you’ll be able to achieve that and I’m living proof of it. I’m a Type 1 diabetic playing in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens, loving every second of it and that was my dream as a kid, so there’s no reason you can’t do the same thing.”