Diabetes need not keep one from their dreams of hockey.
Yorkton Terrier forward Daylan Gatzke is proof of that.
“I got diagnosed in Kindergarten, when I was six-years-old,” said the 19-year-old from Swift Current, SK.
Like many young Saskatchewan boys Gatzke, who is in Vernon this week with the Terriers in pursuit of a Royal Bank Cup title, was already playing the game when he and his family learned he had diabetes.
Gatzke said when he played, people around him were sensing something was not quite right.
“I was really frumpy at hockey. I was getting really moody,” he said, adding after the diagnosis “we realized my blood sugars weren’t in control,” and that was influencing his moods.
At age six Gatzke went on insulin starting with needles.
Then when in Grade 10, Gatzke was fitted with an insulin pump, and he said that has made a huge difference in his life.
“It’s amazing going from eight needles a day to one every three days,” he said.
Gatzke said when he first started taking needles he kept a very close eye on his blood sugar levels.
“My parents always wanted me to be in control,” he said, adding that meant a blood sugar level test with every meal and snack, and a corresponding needle to keep levels regulated.
“You had to have a needle to be in good control,” he said.
The insulin pump changed the reliance on so many needles, but initially created something of a conundrum for a young hockey player. Gatzke said he wasn’t sure if he should wear the pump when playing, finally deciding to wear one.
It was a decision which seemed good until one day a check broke the pump.
At that point Gatzke decided the pump might not be up to the rigours of hockey.
“Now I put it on between periods,” he said, adding he has used the pump long enough to have figured out how to use it effectively.
So has diabetes impacted Gatzke’s pursuit of hockey?
The young forward said at times it has been awkward in as much as coaches and other players may not be aware of having to take insulin to control the disease.
It has helped. Gatzke has kept the disease well-monitored and controlled, so has never had a major reaction on the ice, although one morning at breakfast he felt his sugars were out of line, and that was just hours before the Terriers five-mile fitness run.
And there is a psychological aspect to something like diabetes too.
“But, you really can’t let it get to you,” said Gatzke.
And Gatzke said he never looks at his diabetes as a barrier to succeeding.
“Growing up with it, it doesn’t seem like too much of a hardship,” said Gatzke, adding he has talked with former Swift Current Broncos (Western Hockey League) Captain Taylor Vause who was diagnosed with diabetes at age 16.
“That was just life-altering,” said Gatzke, adding that Vause had to learn things at 16, he had been doing since age six.
So Gatzke plays the game he loves and deals with diabetes as best he can.
“You just keep it under control. You don’t use it as a crutch,” he said.
And, he hopes to play more hockey once his Junior career is complete after the 2014-15 season.
“I’d really like to go to school, and play hockey,” he said, adding a Division I American college scholarship would be a dream come true.
“But I can’t just expect it,” he said, “but I’ll play hockey as long as I can.”