During his 13-year successful hockey career in the National Hockey League (NHL), skilled defenseman Nick Boynton spent six of those years playing for the Boston Bruins and boasts many career highlights. Boynton’s achievements include competing on the 2002 NHL All-Rookie team, playing in the 2004 NHL All-Star game and winning the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. While you may not know it from looking at his stats, Boynton played the majority of his professional hockey career with type 1 diabetes.
At the age of 19 years-old – shortly before he played his first season with the Bruins in 1999 – Boynton was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“I began to feel sick and I was losing weight, drinking lots of water and having to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes,” explained Boynton. “My family doctor gave me pills and diagnosed me [with] type 2 diabetes. When I arrived in Boston the team took me straight to Massachusetts General Hospital where I was diagnosed with type 1 [diabetes].”
Like many Canadians, Boynton started playing hockey at the young age of five, and he was determined to continue with his hockey career even after his diabetes diagnosis.
“[While playing hockey]I kept a close eye on my blood sugar levels and tested a lot to make sure I was running at a good level during games,” said Boynton. “It was a lot of trial and error at first, [but] the Bruins had a great medical staff.”
In addition to closely monitoring his blood glucose levels and his diet, Boynton also uses an insulin pump, which made it easier to manage his diabetes during games. Controlling his blood glucose levels was just one aspect of managing his diabetes; Boynton also learned to work with coaches who were unsupportive towards his diabetes.
“There were ups and downs with diabetes throughout my career,” commented Boynton. “Some coaches were very understanding and others didn’t care too much and thought it was a disease that could be controlled through diet. The [coaches] that didn’t understand and didn’t care to understand weren’t my favorite and it made things difficult, [but] my teammates were always supportive.”
Despite these challenges, Boynton firmly believes that his hockey career was not hindered by his diabetes in any way.
“I felt I played as well as I could, and as well as I would have if I didn’t have diabetes,” added Boynton. “Type 1 diabetes never stopped me from doing what I always dreamed of doing, and I hope it doesn’t stop anyone else.”
Although Boynton did not end his career in Boston, he has many great memories from his years with the Bruins.
“My fondest memories are the people of Boston and the great friends I made during my time there, and also my first NHL team, [the Bruins] are an original six team, which I always admired growing up,” said Boynton.
After retiring from professional hockey, Boynton devotes his time to his camp, Boynton Hockey Camp, which specializes in training future hockey players. He also enjoys connecting with other athletes and families with children who have diabetes.
“I always enjoyed being able to talk to families who had children with diabetes,” he said. “I advise them to make sure they keep control of their blood sugars and test as much as possible, and not to let [diabetes] hold them back from doing what they want to do.”