I have not written about hockey in a long time, but this is something that I felt I needed to share with everyone, because it shows there are still athletes out there who serve as class acts, and who want to do good things for their fans. A couple of weeks ago, when the New Jersey Devils were facing the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the announcers for the Devils remarked that Cory Conacher, a rookie center for the Lightning, is a type 1 diabetic, and how great it was for such a player to reach the NHL. Watching and hearing this, one of the players I coach, a 14-year-old named Jake from Middletown, New Jersey, who also has type 1 diabetes, said how awesome he thought that was, and that it was the first time he had ever heard of a player with the same condition as him actually making the NHL. I have known Jake for several years, and have seen him develop in front of my own eyes. He has a lot of skills and is one of the best players in our league, but coaching him also helped my development, because it served as a wake-up call of sorts to see a player have to keep track of his sugar levels, or maybe even pump insulin in the middle of a game, while on the bench. This might keep most people from playing such an intense sport, but it has not stopped him, and thankfully, did not stop Cory either.
Cory became an instant role model for him, and Jake said he was going to be following the player’s career more closely now. After hearing this, I figured I would attempt to contact the Lightning organization, telling them of my player and his recent discovery of Conacher as a role model to him. I sent an email, asking for Cory’s autograph, so I could give it to him. I was immediately met with a response, and that they would send something out as soon as the Lightning were back in town.
The other day, the autograph arrived, signed “To Jake”, and I will be giving it to him tonight—I know he will be very happy and excited. I just had to post this, because I wanted everyone to know how much this little gesture from Cory and the Tampa Bay Lightning means to us. He is currently establishing himself as one of the top rookies in the NHL, recording 18 points in his first 19 games. Diabetes is a condition not often talked about in professional sports, and I do not think that the players who are open about it know just how much inspiration they are giving to young athletes around the country. For a player to succeed at such a high level with a condition normally seen as a hindrance, can do wonders for the psyche and motivation of an aspiring hockey player. If Cory or the Lightning are reading this, I just wanted to say thank you. It is now going to be very tough to root against them when they are facing the Rangers, or the Devils, Jake’s favorite team.