Kukla's Korner


How Hockey Gave Me A Better Shot At Life

A week ago, Paul proposed to make today, December 1st, Happy Hockey Talk day, to encourage MSM and bloggers alike to focus on the positive stories, aspects, and memories of our game, ones that give you that lovely feel-good rush.

To that end, I thought I would share a little about myself, not having done too much of that, and how hockey has not only improved my life, but in helping me to overcome adversity brought on by disease, has actually helped to save it.

Being Canadian and having a fondness for skating from a young age — be it at the rink, on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, or on frozen cottage lakes — you might have expected me to find my way onto a Timbit team. Reality is that, as a kid, I started out enrolled in a figure skating class, and being unceremoniously bullied everywhere in life, I quickly developed an aversion to kids my age, especially the competitive ones that played sports. Not the best move, but can you blame a young, scared kid?

A few weeks before my 11th birthday, during a big family party to celebrate my mother’s birthday, I crashed the party, quite literally. In the months leading up to it, I had been sleeping during class, was not able to focus, and as I lost 20lbs in a week, the doctor thought that I was anorexic, and should start eating more, though the truth would not reveal itself until the big day.

Lazing on the couch at the backyard BBQ as my extended family had gathered for the party, I was encouraged to go play catch with my cousins. Upon reaching the grass, however, I dropped to the ground and nearly passed out. Rushed by my parents to the hospital, hours into my stay in an emergency examination room, my mother was given the worst birthday ever: news that her young son had developed juvenile diabetes, despite an absence of the genetic caused disease going back through the family trees, the most common predictor of the disease.

A quick summation of the disease: you eat food because you need energy, specifically sugar, that your body breaks the food down into, which flows in your bloodstream, and gets used by your muscles to act, your body organs to process, and your brain to think. The pancreas, an organ hiding behind the stomach, secretes adrenaline and insulin. If you think of your muscles and organs as cars, and the sugar in your blood as the gas that they run on, insulin is the key that unlocks the gas tank, so that the fuel can get into the engine. Type 1 or juvenile diabetics have lost all insulin production, and in order to survive, must carefully do the body’s work in observing blood sugar levels, and regulating them with proper diet, exercise, and synthetic insulin administered with daily injections or an insulin pump. Without insulin, the diabetic dies, and without careful regulation of blood sugars, consequences still loom: organ failure, other complications, and even limb amputation if blood sugar levels are left too high for years, or instant jeopardy, unconsciousness, comas, and death should the levels drift too low.

Many years later, I find myself in university, an avid follower of my now distant hometown Sens. The closest I would get to participation in the sport was in high school gym class, playing goal while using the gym’s beat up pads and trying to make ‘glove’ and blocker saves with a forward’s set of gloves. Still, it remains one of my most enjoyed memories of sport, but between hard to erase bad memories of childhood bullies, and concerns about my diabetes, a memory in the past it had remained.

Finally, one day, I found out that it was not just celebrities like Halle Berry and Miss America 1998, Nicole Johnson, who limited the disease’s effect on their lives; hockey players had succeeded too.

The first story I saw one day was on Toby Petersen, now a center with the Stars,

A little more searching, and another success story and video are found in Nick Boynton,


Even current Flyers’ GM Bobby Clarke has made sure that the disease is only a footnote of his 15 season career with Philadelphia. They are far from the only diabetics, far from the only individuals who have fought against any kind of suffering in order to achieve their success, but they are all great examples of overcoming adversity, and certainly one that resounded with me.

It was just three months ago that I first laced up a pair of skates with stick in hand, and joined a beginner ice hockey league. I found energy, healthy life-prolonging activity, excitement, and even more appreciation for the sport I’d only been watching from the sidelines for so long. I gained confidence, skills, and friends, and even picked up Petersen’s pump location to add to and improve my rotation, previous locations having failed me and put my health at risk. Not only do I get to play hockey, but I have been able to work past my concerns about sport, and instead use the activity to better manage my diabetes.

I have never had more fun taking part in sport, and until my body gives out you won’t be able to pry me away from hockey. These three individuals’ stories and my own are only a drop in the bucket, but if ever those drops are the ones that finally give a child (or adult) a full glass of confidence, hope, and joy, the ability to find success, do what they enjoy, and never feel held back, then it will all be worth it.

Filed in: NHL General, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net