As a youngster, Max Domi’s first hero was Mats Sundin, captain of his dad Tie’s team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was why he wore No. 13 through the early portion of his youth hockey career.
His hero changed when Domi was 12, and he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He switched his allegiance to former Philadelphia Flyers captain Bobby Clarke, who overcame his diabetes, not to mention the skepticism of many teams, to become an NHL superstar.
Like Domi, Clarke was 12 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. A star in junior with the WCHL’s Flin Flon Bombers, Clarke was a top NHL prospect but NHL teams were hesitant to draft him because of his diabetes. Flin Flon coach Pat Ginnell took Clarke to the Mayo clinic in 1969 for a medical evaluation. The doctors wrote up a report stating Clarke could play professional hockey if he took proper care of his health.
In spite of this Clarke was passed over by every team in the first round of the draft. He was finally chosen by the Flyers with the fourth pick of the second round, 17th overall in the 1969 amateur draft.
Captain of the Flyers from 1973-79, Clarke led them to a pair of Stanley Cups in 1973-74 and 1974-75. Clarke posted three 100+ point seasons and led the NHL in assists twice. He also held the NHL record for assists by a center of 89 until Wayne Gretzky broke it.
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 ran into Bobby Clarke,” Montreal Canadiens forward Domi recalled. “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.”