MONTREAL - Max Domi became a Montreal Canadien in the summer of 2018 amid much fanfare and excitement and proceeded to enjoy a career-best 28-goal, 72-point inaugural season as a Hab.
But if it weren't for Bobby Clarke, none of it might've ever happened at all.
That's because Domi suffers from type 1 diabetes, and thought he might have to give up on playing hockey when he found out. Until he was made aware of the Philadelphia Flyers icon, that is.
"When I was diagnosed at the age of 12, the first question I asked was, 'Can I still play hockey?' The doctor looked at me and kind of laughed and said, 'Of course you can, do you know who Bobby Clarke was?' I had no idea, I was a little bit embarrassed," recounted Domi. "But I did my research and that's why I wore No. 16 [in Arizona], because of Mr. Clarke, someone who is a legend in our game."
A Hockey-Hall-of-Famer, Clarke is a two-time Stanley Cup winner with three Hart Trophies, a Selke Trophy, Lester Patrick, Trophy, Masterton Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award to his name. And the decorated performer with 1,210 career points (358G, 852A) in 1,144 games has something in common with Domi: he's also a type 1 diabetic.
"[Diabetes gives you] a sense of adversity, it sets you back a little bit, and makes you question some things. But when someone says you can do something and someone shows you you can do something, those are two very different things," shared Domi, the Arizona Coyotes' first-round pick (12th overall) in 2013. "I saw he could do it; I thought about that guy every single day."
In November, Domi released his memoir, No Days Off: My Life with Type 1 Diabetes and Journey to the NHL, and got to meet the former Flyers captain ahead of the Canadiens' first visit to Philadelphia this season.
Needless to say, it was an emotional moment for Domi, who met plenty of hockey stars growing up thanks to his father, Tie, a former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer.
"I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you if it wasn't for that man over there," Domi said during the meet-and-greet on RDS, referring to Clarke. "I know everyone has an idol growing up, someone to look up to. My dad played a big part and other individuals did too, but having a disease like type 1 diabetes, it's a small community, not many people understand it. But if you have it, you get it; you understand what we go through. [Clarke] lived it, he understands it. He's a [two-time] Stanley Cup champion, a captain of the Philadelphia Flyers as a type 1 diabetic; how do you beat that? I changed my number to 16 because of him. He's my idol for a reason; I look up to him for a lot of reasons. It's pretty cool to be sitting with him right now."
Clarke may have achieved a lot over the course of his storied 15-year career, but finding out how much of an impact he had on someone like Domi still felt like a special accomplishment to the 70-year-old.
"It's pretty humbling when you hear a National Hockey League player say that about you. Having diabetes… on his part, he made the NHL because he can play hockey," praised Clarke, the Flyers' second-round pick (17th overall) in 1969. "It doesn't have anything to do with the fact that he's a diabetic. He's an NHL hockey player with diabetes, and that's pretty special, I think."
To mark the very special occasion, Domi brought along a copy of his book as a gift for Clarke, and made it personal with a touching inscription:
"To Mr. Clarke,
Thank you for everything! You changed my life!
Your good friend,
The Canadiens face the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.
Images and video courtesy of RDS