SUN Hockey Pool

No quit in Petersen

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

CHICAGO -- All young boys grow up dreaming about becoming a professional athlete.

A race car driver, a football hero, a hockey player, or, in the case of all of those delicate anti-fighting crusaders, pairs skating with Brian Orser.

At some point in our lives, however, 99% of us make the conscious decision to give up. We're either too small, not good enough, unwilling to put in the effort or make the sacrifices necessary to reach those boyhood dreams.

So we quit.

Toby Petersen faced the same long odds - longer, in fact - than we did. Always one of the smallest kids on his team, drafted late, undersized for the NHL, five years in the minors and hooked to an insulin pump to control the diabetes he's wrestled with since kindergarten, he had plenty of reasons to give up.

But, unlike us, Petersen didn't quit. The 28-year-old winger/centre/defenceman is suiting up for his 61st game of the NHL season this afternoon in Chicago.

"They're both accomplishments, I guess," shrugged Petersen, informed that he's been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (for perseverance and dedication to hockey) by the Edmonton chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

"To make it to this level in the first place with diabetes, and to make it back after spending so much time in the minors."

Most Oilers fans probably didn't even know about Petersen's condition, or the pump that regulates his blood sugar. New teammates don't usually clue in right away, either. And that's just the way he likes it.

"It's something I take pride in," he said. "It's a double-edged sword. You want everyone to know just in case something does go wrong, so they can help you out, but you don't want to make it an issue - you don't want people to say he played well, and had a good career, for a diabetic."

Petersen, who personifies the dictionary definition of perseverance and dedication, doesn't like to talk about his diabetes much, only to say it's just something he has to deal with.

"I just have to keep an eye on my diet and keep a constant check on my blood sugar, have a grip on what's going on," he said. "It's my routine. Everyone has their own routine. I have to do things slightly differently than other people, but it's not that different to me because I've been doing it my whole life.

"I wake up in the morning, I have to do certain things that other people don't."

And sometimes, like the second night of this trip, he's up until 5 a.m., on the phone with doctors in Minneapolis and cabbing to a 24-hour pharmacy in Nashville to locate insulin and arrange for a new pump when the old one broke.

"That's a rare occurrence, but that's one of them," he said. "I've had a few along the way. I've had some close calls where it seemed like someone had to be watching over me for sure. Someone came in at just the right time and noticed that I didn't look quite right."

That he's made it to the NHL despite his diabetes is something he should be proud of, but he's prouder of the fact he's made it without a lot of people knowing he's a diabetic.


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