GLENDALE -- Connor Bottrill and his younger brother Ryan discovered hockey on a trip to Denver to visit their grandparents. Part of a family that didn’t think hockey was very prevalent in Arizona, the two took the sport they discovered home and found their niche playing in the desert – where they still play now.
While the duo fell in love with hockey at an early age, though, Connor’s journey to where he is now – playing for both his high school team and for the Arizona Jr. Coyotes – wasn’t without what many would consider a fairly significant obstacle.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition present in just 5 percent of the world’s diabetics. Generally discovered when an individual is younger than 20, it occurs when one’s immune system destroys beta cells in the pancreas – which prevents the body from producing insulin and regulating blood sugar levels.
Connor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was nine.
|Connor Bottrill, Max Domi and Ryan Bottrill. |
“I had been in Denver for a few hockey camps,” said Bottrill, remembering his diagnosis. “I then came home and played in a hockey game. That night, I felt really sick, and when my parents took me to the doctor they told me I had type 1 diabetes.”
Connor didn’t know what type 1 diabetes was when he was diagnosed, but he’s quickly learned about the condition – and how to manage it, which means a continuous glucose monitor and insulin injections through a pump.
It means making sure that sugar levels are maintained, as well; where most hockey players only have to worry about fatigue from overexertion, Connor has to be mindful that his body will sometimes feel tired for health-related reasons. Sometimes, he has to deal with exhaustion that has nothing to do with his own effort level. A bad game can be because his insulin levels are off, even with diligence and constant health monitoring.
That hasn’t stopped the Jr. Coyotes skater from being an excellent hockey player, and it hasn’t stopped him from loving the game.
Like Coyotes forward Max Domi, Connor wears sweater No. 16 on the ice – and for the same reason as Domi. Both picked the number in honor of Bobby Clarke, an NHL Hall of Famer who played with type 1 diabetes for almost 15 years while skating as captain of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Domi is Connor’s favorite player for the inspiration he provides, as well.
|Derek Morris and Connor Bottrill |
“It’s great to see someone excel at a sport at the highest level while managing type 1 diabetes,” Bottrill said. “I’ve learned a lot from him, and the care and discipline he has in playing his best and managing his type 1.”
Domi finished his 2015-16 rookie NHL season with an impressive 52 points in 81 games. He was one of the league’s highest scoring rookies – finishing third among first-year NHL players in scoring and sixth in goals – all while playing with a condition that takes a significant chunk of time to maintain.
Meeting Domi during his first year in Arizona helped inspire Connor to keep succeeding like he does; seeing another type 1 diabetic reaping the rewards of hard work was yet another reminder that success isn’t out of reach for athletes dealing with tough conditions.
Connor himself is familiar with being successful while managing diabetes, though.
Between high school hockey and the Jr. Coyotes (where Connor is coached by former Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris), Connor is on the ice almost every day of the week. He juggles that with his regular school load, working to maintain honor roll in all of his classes; there’s a level of discipline that’s required to meet with this kind of success, and Connor makes sure to exemplify it.
Playing with type 1 diabetes doesn’t seem easy, but it certainly seems rewarding – and Connor, like Domi, is a perfect example of this.