Beyond The Benches

Diabetes: Clarke To Domi

The face of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970’s and arguably still today, Bobby Clarke, never hid the fact that he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at just 13-years-old.

According to the Mayo Clinic “diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body use blood sugar.”

The stigma of Clarks diagnosis never gave him an excuse not to play.

“I never looked at myself as a diabetic hockey player,” he told The Reminder. “I looked at myself as a hockey player who happened to have diabetes. Lots of guys I played against had knee surgery and broken legs and broken shoulders and stuff. They were never called the broken-shouldered hockey player or the torn-up-knee hockey player. They were a hockey player who had knee problems, but they played hockey. I considered myself the same. I had diabetes, but it was not an excuse for me not to play to the best of my ability.”

Even though the two-time Stanley Cup champion was open about his condition one of the first times he saw it affect his career was when he was passed over during the 1969 NHL Draft after being ranked at the top of the draft class.

Clarke was selected by the Flyers’ in the second-round by scout Gerry Melnky.

“I don’t give a damn if this kid’s got one leg; he’s the best player I’ve seen at this level. He’ll right away be our best player,” Melnky said during the draft according to NHL.com.

At the time of Clarke’s diagnosis treatment for type 1 diabetes was done with animal insulin. The insulin provided to patients came from cows or pigs that could cause reactions after being injected. The size of a standard needle was considerably larger than it is now.

“There was a time when there was only one type of insulin and the needles and syringes needed to be boiled,” Clarke said to Diabetes Care.

At the age of 67-years-old Clarke stepped onto his home ice at the Wells Fargo Center for the organizations alumni game for the final time this past January still known at the Flyers’ greatest player.

“I was going to be like Bobby Clarke,” hockey player Max Domi wrote in a Players Tribune article.

Domi, current Arizona Coyotes winger, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 12 after exhibiting intense thirst after playing in a minor-league tournament.

All I wanted to know was, “Can I still play hockey?”

I remember the doctor giving a slight smile and asking, “Do you know Bobby Clarke?”

I shook my head.

“Well, he was a great hockey player and he has diabetes. Of course, you can play hockey, Max,” Domi wrote in a Players Tribune article.

An insulin pump would eventually become a way for Domi to help manage his diabetes. The pump, invented in 1963, would eventually be refined into a version that could withstand a professional athlete’s physical tests.

In addition to the pump located on his hip Domi had to monitor his diet to keep his diabetes under control.

As Domi continued to develop in the Ontario Hockey League, the Toronto native never shied away from the fact he had diabetes. After a dominate performance in the World Junior Championships the media took notice of the gold medalists story where Domi was given the opportunity to spread his message about living and playing hockey with diabetes.

During his time in the OHL he was awarded the Mikey Renaud Captain’s Trophy for his leadership and work in the community directly relating to his efforts brining awareness to diabetes.

One of the biggest additions to Domi’s life has been his diabetic alert dog, Orion. A relativity new concept for diabetics is the ability to have a trained service dog alert their owners when their blood sure is low.

The dogs are trained over a two-year time frame once matched with an owner. The price ranges from $10,000 to $25,000 for the development of the dog who are trained to bring a bringsel to their owners when they notice a drop or spike in blood sugar. The animals sense of smell gives them the ability to do this once trained using their owner’s saliva.

As the treatment advances for diabetes continued so did Domi’s career when he was selected 12th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2013 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

Domi made his NHL debut on October 10, 2015 where he collected his first goal and assist against the Los Angeles Kings.

Since the 22-year-olds NHL debut the forward has collected 90 points including 27 goals and 63 assists in 140 games. The young winger shows no signs of slowing down as he follows on of his mentor’s footsteps, Bobby Clarke.