Max Domi has a new best friend, a diabetic-alert dog

Max Domi

It was why he wore No. 13 through the early portion of his youth hockey career.His hero changed when Max Domi was 12, and he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He chose former Philadelphia Flyer Bobby Clarke, who overcame his diabetes, not to mention the skepticism of many teams, to become an NHL superstar. Clarke was long retired by the time Domi began skating. But not long after he became a diabetic, here was Domi at a tournament, and there, standing off to the side in a crowd of people, was Clarke.”When I was 13 or 14 years old, I was actually at a tournament in Whitby, Ontario and my mom (Leanne) ran into Bobby Clarke,” Domi recalled to the Windsor Star. “I’d changed my number a couple of months prior to that to 16 because of him.”I’d never met him and she was not a big fan of going up to people like that and saying, ‘Hey can you come and meet my kid?’ “Obviously there’s an exception for everything and he was nice enough to come and say hi to me.”

Orion shines for Domi

Since 2015, there’s been a new hero in Max Domi’s universe. His name is Orion and he literally is a lifesaver. A 6-year-old 70-pound yellow lab, Orion is a diabetic-alert dog that provides companionship to Domi, as well as a comfort zone for him and his family.When her son moved out on his own to play in the NHL, Leanne Domi worried about Max staying on top of his blood-sugar levels.Those levels often dip at night, and that’s when Orion is on alert.”He’s a big help,” said Domi, who wears an insulin pump all the time, even during games. “Living by myself and sleeping after games, he just adds another element of safety and helps me out a lot.”Saliva gives off a different scent when blood-sugar levels dip and with his keen sense of smell, Orion can detect this change immediately. When he does, he tugs at a bringsel, a foam roll that attaches to Domi’s belt, or finds it and brings it to Domi if he’s not wearing it.Orion sleeps in the same room with Domi and awakens him should he detect a change in his blood sugar. Domi insists that Orion is correct 99% of the time. An animal lover at heart, Domi said it was good to get a four-legged friend, not to mention the peace of mind it provided his parents.”I love dogs, so it was a given for me,” Domi said.

Back with the Habs

Max Domi always finds time to meet young fans with diabetes.
Photo by: Michael Lewkowitz (flickr).

After careful consideration, Domi opted to join his Montreal Canadiens teammates and compete in the NHL’s Return To Play Stanley Cup tournament. The Habs are +190 underdogs at online sportsbooks to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in their best-of-five qualifying-round series. At +6600, only the Columbus Blue Jackets (+7000) and New York Islanders (+7000) show longer odds to win the Stanley Cup than Montreal.Despite being more susceptible to long-term damage from COVID-19 due to his diabetes, Domi still wanted to be there for his teammates in the same manner that Orion looks out for his well-being. Orion provides comfort and inspiration to him, and Domi seeks to do the same for others who are also dealing with diabetes. It’s rare for a day to go by when he isn’t offering encouragement to a youngster with the disease.”In London (where Max played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Knights), he was always talking to kids at games,” Tie Domi said. “He’s a real role model.”I’m so proud of how he embraces that role.”In Max’s mind, he’s only offering positive reinforcement that anything is possible, the same message he drew the day he met Clarke.

“I know how much that meant to me, so I’ve just been kind of trying to repay the favour and do that for another kid down the line,” Domi said.

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