March 2, 2005
Nebraska-Omaha freshman defenseman Rob Chappell was diagnosed with diabetes, a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, at the age of eight. The St. Albert, Alberta, native has found a balance between living with his disease and becoming a success on the ice. Chappell has one goal, three assists and is +4 through 30 games for the Mavericks this season.
LIVING WITH DIABETES
By Rob Chappell
I have played hockey as long as I can remember. I was introduced to the game at the age of four on an outdoor rink in St. Albert, Alb. My parents realized my love for the game at a young age and hockey has always been a huge part of my life. They have supported me through 15 years of competitive hockey and with my ongoing battle with insulin-dependent diabetes. I was diagnosed with the disease at the age of eight and I spent a week in the University of Alberta Hospital learning to cope with the disease. The next lesson I needed to learn was how to play hockey while balancing diabetes. It was at this time that I learned that former NHL star and current Philadelphia Flyers GM Bobby Clarke was a diabetic. Upon acquiring this knowledge, my parents encouraged me to write him a letter and he responded with a letter of his own in the coming weeks. His main message, which I still use for inspiration today, was simple: "If I can do it, you can do it."
I used that simple phrase to push me through minor hockey in St. Albert and on to junior hockey. I skated for Terry Perkins and the Powell River Kings in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League for three seasons and was proud to captain the team in my final campaign. It was when I was playing for the Kings that I was recruited by the University of Nebraska-Omaha and committed in November of my last year. I was very excited about the opportunity of playing college hockey for the Mavericks and skating at the Qwest Center in downtown Omaha.
I am currently enjoying my first season as a defenseman for the Mavs. I have loved the competition, night in and night out, in the CCHA and am thrilled at the opportunity our team has to be successful in the upcoming playoffs. I am proud to be a part of this young and talented team and I am very optimistic about our success this year and in years to come.
I value being a source for other young diabetics in need of inspiration such as I did some 12 years ago. I have found balancing diabetes and college hockey to be a task that needs lots of attention and continued support from my biggest fans, my parents. I always try to stay `one step ahead of the game' in my preparation for a tough weekend competition. I try to educate young diabetics on the ways they need to organize their daily schedule in preparation for an evening sporting event. For myself, I pay extra attention to the amount of food, specifically carbohydrates, I take in throughout the day leading up to the event. During a game day, I try to eat three good meals prior to the start of the game, which can be a challenge; our days are busy with preparation for our opponent. After arriving at the rink, I eat a snack consisting of orange juice and a bagel about 45 minutes before the game. I also have a bottle of Gatorade or orange juice, which our trainer Rusty McKune makes sure is taken care of, on the bench throughout the game. The most important thing you can do to help yourself on the day of the game is to constantly be measuring your blood sugar to make sure it is at the optimum level when the puck drops.
I always like the way Bobby Clarke used to say that he was a hockey player with diabetes, not a diabetic hockey player, and I think that if young diabetics take care of themselves, the same will ring true.
Rob Chappell was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of eight years old.