Max Zimmer has endured countless checks into the boards, a few slashes and plenty of face washes in front of the net. None of the on-ice physicality compares to the totality of fingerpricks and shot injections that the Chicago Steel forward has endured throughout his life.
Zimmer, an NHL Central Scouting B-rated skater, was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at Christmas when he was just two years old. By age three, Zimmer was giving himself his own insulin injections, and by age five Zimmer had endured over 15,000 pricks and injections.
Despite what may appear to be an unfortunate diagnosis for Max, the 18-year old sees his diabetes as an opportunity.
“There was a kid recently diagnosed last season and came to me asking me about how to handle sports with diabetes,” Zimmer explained. “It’s a pleasure for me to help people because when I was younger I didn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those people who helped me, so I always want to try and help anyone who needs it.”
Notable NHL players Max Domi, Cory Conacher and B.J. Crombeen have already become huge spokespeople for monitoring and maintaining the disease.
Zimmer will typically check his blood sugar more frequently on game day, when the physical aspects of hockey is more likely to bring his glucose levels to a dangerous level. On an average day, Zimmer will aim to check his levels every four hours, but even that can be difficult with the senior’s high school schedule. Maintaining healthy levels, day in and day out, is crucial for Zimmer and how he performs on the ice.
“It’s important for me to make sure three days before a game that I’m at the right levels and have the right energy,” Zimmer said. “Going into a game I always check my sugar before warm ups and in between every period.”
The most important thing for Zimmer is that he hasn’t allowed Diabetes limit what he can and can’t do. With the advances in technology with insulin pumps, accuracy in glucose testing and a steady support group thanks to foundations like Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF), kids can look to have generally normal lives.
Even if the kid is striving to become a NHL Draft pick.
“I never limit myself to what I can and can’t do, or can and can’t eat,” Zimmer said. “I try not to eat a lot of sugar but let’s be honest, large amounts of that isn’t good for anyone.”
Zimmer credits the Chicago Steel staff for being supportive and helpful whenever he needs it. Chicago Steel Head Athletic Trainer Patrick Chun monitors Zimmer just as he does with the other 19 players on the ice.
“It’s a real pleasure to work with him because he’s been dealing with this since he was two. He’s really self-sufficient,” Chun said. “I always keep an extra shot of glucose or testing strips on the bench, but working with him is easy because he’s so responsible and doesn’t shy away from asking for an extra Gatorade or anything to make sure his levels are consistent.”
Chun has had experience working with diabetic athletes in the past, and he’s been impressed at the level of detailed care Zimmer provides for himself.
On the ice, Zimmer has impressed Chun, fans and scouts alike as they’ve watched him excel at a higher level of hockey. Zimmer got an early start to the season, scoring five goals in five games en route to winning a bronze medal at the Junior Club World Cup in Russia. It was the second time Zimmer played in the JCWC, as he traveled with the Sioux City Musketeers prior to playing his final season at Wayzata High School.
Zimmer has also gotten off to a fast start in regular season play, scoring six points in ten games. Chicago Steel Head Coach Dan Muse has been able to move Zimmer throughout the lineup to help other players produce.
Despite his early success, Zimmer isn’t satisfied with his individual or team performance.
“It’s still too early in the season. You can’t write anyone off or draw any conclusions on guys this early,” Zimmer said. “I need to focus on getting stronger off the ice and work on being more dangerous getting to the net.”
Zimmer also noted that the attitude in the locker room remains positive, and believes that this group will come out battle-tested. Zimmer and the Steel believe there is still a lot more to accomplish this season.
“I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to spend so much time with the guys now that I’m in the USHL,” Zimmer said. “I look forward to putting together a full season and making a playoff run.”
Max Zimmer and the Chicago Steel will play in the USHL FASTHockey Game of the Week this Friday, October 30, 2015 at 7:00pm ET. The free HD broadcast will be viewable from ushl.fasthockey.com.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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