Max Domi vividly remembers the moment that changed his life.
And no, it wasn’t when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
It was a brief encounter where NHL legend Bobby Clarke — a two-time Stanley Cup champion, three-time Hart Trophy winner as league MVP and, most importantly to Domi, a diabetic — took a minute out of his day to say hello and chat with a youngster unsure about what his own diagnosis meant.
“What that did for me was astronomical,” Domi said. “It’s just unbelievable. I think about that on a daily basis.”
That encounter after learning he was Type 1 at age 12 became the genesis of Domi’s new book “No Days Off.”
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the support I’ve received,” said Domi, a winger with the Montreal Canadiens in the midst of his fifth NHL season. “And just knowing that Bobby Clarke did that was enough for me to grind through some tough times. I’m trying to do the same thing, and do some good in this world.
“That’s what this is all about.”
The book opens with Domi detailing June 30, 2013 — the day he was drafted into the NHL by the Arizona Coyotes.
“Big swings in your emotional state in general can take a toll on your blood sugar,” Domi writes. “Going low or high like that can lead to more mood changes, and the spiral continues.
“It’s only worse when you don’t have enough to eat.”
Domi could only pick at breakfast that morning when his father, former NHL tough guy Tie Domi, handed him a rice cake and told him he needed fuel.
“Everyone there was excited about the draft,” Max Domi, 24, said in an interview. “I was too, but the No. 1 thing on my mind was my blood sugar.
“My health comes first — no matter what.”
Domi’s message in “No Days Off” is simple: don’t let Type 1 diabetes get in the way of your dreams.
He details the uncertainty in the lead-up of his initial diagnosis, the relief after being told he could still play hockey, learning to deal with the disease on a daily basis, and how friends, family and teammates supported him in his journey.
The book’s title is a nod to how he and every other person with Type 1 diabetes — a form of the disease where little or no insulin is produced by the pancreas — have to focus on what their bodies are telling them at all times.
“It’s not second nature, but it definitely ends up being on repeat nowadays,” Domi said of his routine. “But with that being said, you have to think on your feet quick and handle any of the curveballs thrown at you.
“You can never prepare enough, so I go overboard with that to help set me up for success.”
Domi added that attention to detail in a career that progressed from minor hockey, to the OHL’s London Knights, to the world junior hockey championship and eventually the NHL actually helped give him a leg up in some ways.
“You take a situation that’s not exactly positive and do the best you can and make the most of it,” he said. “You’ve got to be on top of you body and how it feels, how to prepare, hydration, the significance of eating well, sleeping well … all that good stuff.
“When you have a disease that forces you to do that at an early age, you’re ahead of the curve.”
Domi, who also talks about injecting himself with insulin, his fears, anxieties and some scary moments when his blood sugar was out of whack, started to meet with fellow Type 1 diabetics as a junior player in hopes of making a difference.
“It was never me lecturing or telling them what to do, because they get enough for their parents and their doctors,” said Domi, who scored the overtime winner in a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday. “To hear someone that knows exactly what it feels like (to have their blood sugar) go low or to go high, tell you what they’ve been through, it’s so much easier to relate. All your walls drop down and it’s like a special connection that no one else has with you.”
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But he could never get to everyone. That’s why he decided to write a book.
“It’s just a story about me,” Domi said. “It’s about the ups and downs of that and the adversity I’ve battled.
“Hopefully it’s motivation for kids out there. Just because you have Type 1 doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your dreams.”