Cougar prospect keep­ing di­a­betes in check

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Ted CLARKE Cit­i­zen staff tclarke@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca

Bobby Clarke, Cory Conacher and Max Domi all made it to the top of the hockey world.

They con­quered the chal­lenge of liv­ing with Type 1 di­a­betes and played in the Na­tional Hockey League.

That’s an ex­clu­sive club Prince Ge­orge Cougars for­ward Bren­dan Boyle wants to join.

Play­ing a sport that de­mands so much of the body, the fact Boyle has got­ten to the verge of crack­ing the Cougars ros­ter as a 17-yearold rookie shows he’s not the type to let Type 1 de­rail his dreams as an elite ath­lete.

“There’s dif­fer­ent chal­lenges but the main thing is over­com­ing it – you still do any­thing you want to do,” said Boyle. “Just work to what you want to achieve and you can do it. Max Domi’s a great ex­am­ple of that and John Schick, who played in the CFL, he’s a di­a­betic.

“You just have to make sure you stay on top of it. It’s just like work­ing to­wards any­thing else, it takes awhile to ad­just to it but then you’re good to go once you fig­ure it out.”

Boyle was just com­ing into his teen years when his pan­creas started fail­ing him. It wasn’t pro­duc­ing enough in­sulin, the vital sub­stance that al­lows his body to con­vert blood sugar into mus­cle en­ergy. No­body else in his fam­ily had the dis­ease. It just hap­pened to pick him.

“You just have to stay on top of what you’re eat­ing and make sure you know what’s in it be­fore you take any­thing and be care­ful not to over­re­act to things,” he said. “If your blood sugar’s a lit­tle high you don’t want to take too much in­sulin and be low. You just try and counter what you eat.

“I’ve never ac­tu­ally got­ten too low dur­ing a game but some­times you peak a lit­tle bit and you feel it in the legs and they get a bit heavy and a lit­tle weaker. You have to think a bit about how to get (blood sugar) down a bit, just so you’re in that peak zone where you per­form your best.”

Com­mon warn­ing signs of di­a­betes in­clude: in­creased thirst, hunger, fre­quent uri­na­tion, dry mouth, fa­tigue, weight loss, blurred vi­sion and headaches.

“I lost 10 pounds ac­tu­ally and I was just sick con­stantly and had to go to the bath­room, like three or four times a night, so we knew some­thing was wrong,” he said.

Boyle wears an in­sulin pump, a pager-sized de­vice which he tucks in a pocket un­der his hockey pants. It de­liv­ers fast-act­ing in­sulin, good for three or four hours, and he has a but­ton con­trol he can press to give more in­sulin if he needs it. The pump takes the place of in­sulin in­jec­tions, and he can leave it con­nected to his skin for three days at a time.

“I was at a hockey tour­na­ment in Chicago three days af­ter I got di­ag­nosed and you’re sup­posed to have a week course on learn­ing ev­ery­thing, but I was de­ter­mined to go to that tour­na­ment and I had to learn how to give my­self nee­dles,” he said.

The Cougars listed Boyle in Septem­ber 2017 just be­fore he be­gan his first sea­son of ma­jor mid­get with the Okana­gan Rock­ets. He thrived last sea­son as the Rock­ets’ sec­ond-lead­ing scorer, col­lect­ing 18 goals and 40 points in 37 games.

Now, a big­ger, stronger, faster ver­sion of Boyle is stat­ing his case to play in the WHL with the Cougars. The six-foot, 179-pound for­ward has played in three of the four pre­sea­son games this month. The Cougars pared down their train­ing camp ros­ter early and have been to just 27 play­ers for the past two weeks, which has given rook­ies like Boyle plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­press their bosses.

“If you didn’t know he had di­a­betes you wouldn’t even think of it, just the way he car­ries him­self – he’s such a char­ac­ter kid and he plays with a big heart and likes to skate. And he can skate,” said Cougars head coach Richard Matvichuk. “He’s a guy with a team­first men­tal­ity. Give him credit for what he does on and off the ice to take care of his body. It’s amaz­ing. He knows when to eat, what to eat and to do the right thing.”

Boyle has been play­ing on a line with Reid Pere­peluk and Con­nor Bowie, who both love to bash bod­ies. That com­bi­na­tion could stay in­tact as the Cougars’ fourth line this sea­son.

“Camp’s been re­ally good, es­pe­cially this year with the small amount of guys and the ex­tra level of com­pet­i­tive­ness,” said Boyle. “I feel like I’ve got my forecheck go­ing good and that’s what I need to do to suc­ceed. I would say I’m a good skater and I try to use that speed on the forecheck and try to fin­ish my checks when I can and try to make plays

“It’s a lot of fun play­ing with such tal­ented play­ers. We have a lot of team speed and lots of skill up front. I’ve got two big boys out there help­ing me out. I didn’t have my best camp but I’m look­ing to keep get­ting bet­ter.”

Boyle was born in Regina and moved to Cal­gary when he was three months old and played mi­nor hockey there un­til his first year of mid­get, when he moved to Pen­tic­ton to at­tend the Pur­suit of Ex­cel­lence hockey academy. Play­ing for the POE mid­get elite 15s he fin­ished the 2016-17 sea­son with 25 points in 28 games.

The Cougars signed him just be­fore train­ing camp last year and Boyle got his first taste of the reg­u­lar-sea­son ac­tion when he was called up last Fe­bru­ary. He spent three weeks in Prince Ge­orge and played three games. Cen­tring a line with Kjell Kjemhus and Liam Ryan, Boyle was left with an in­deli­ble mem­ory less than four min­utes into his first game, Feb. 9 against the Kam­loops Blaz­ers on Lum­ber­jack Night at CN Cen­tre

“Kjell got that first (ca­reer) goal on my first shift,” said Boyle. “He wel­comed me to the league nicely. The nerves were gone af­ter that shift.”

The Cougars wrap up the pre­sea­son Satur­day at CN Cen­tre when they host the Blaz­ers. They start the sea­son Fri­day, Sept. 21 in Vic­to­ria. The Cats’ home opener is set for Sept. 28 against the Kelowna Rock­ets.

PHOTO COUR­TESY PRINCE GE­ORGE COUGARS

Bren­dan Boyle, a Prince Ge­orge Cougars for­ward prospect who has Type 1 di­a­betes, show the in­sulin pump he uses to reg­u­late his blood sugar lev­els.

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