There comes a time in every one’s life when their hopes and dreams finally come true. For Tom Poti, one of the Washington Capitals’ star defensemen, that day was June 22, 1996.
Destiny found Poti in the 1996 Entry Level Draft for the National Hockey League. He was picked in the third round by the Edmonton Oilers and would be sent to training camp at the end of August.
Born on March 22, 1977 in Worcester, Mass., Poti was a devoted hockey player from the age of seven. He attended St. Peter Marion High School in Worcester for two years, then went to Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., for the remainder of his high school years.
Poti received a full athletic scholarship to play for the Boston University Terriers. He was at BU for only two years before he moved to the NHL in 1998. Poti’s debut in the NHL began with the Edmonton Oilers. In 2002, he was traded to the New York Rangers where he spent four seasons before being traded to the cross-town rivals, the New York Islanders.
“The day of the draft, I watched it on television and when they called Tom’s name I couldn’t help but smile. It brought tears to my eyes knowing he made his dreams come true,” said Tom’s grandmother, Gloria Poti. “He will forever be a role model for our family and friends because of everything he has accomplished.”
In July of 2007, Poti moved to yet another team. The Washington Capitals signed a four-year contract with Poti. He currently lives minutes away from the Capitals Ice Plex arena in Arlington, Va.
Starting at a young age, Poti struggled with tremendous food allergies. He is allergic to peanuts, chocolate, seafood, sodium glucamate, MSG, and other preservatives. Any contact with these foods can be fatal to Poti’s life. Poti is also allergic to pollen and certain outdoor grasses. He also suffers from asthma. Poti carries an Epi-pen with him at all times in case of emergencies.
“I remember when Tom was a little boy, we would bring him to the hospital at least once a week because we had no idea how many foods he was allergic to,” said Emil Poti, Tom’s father. “There were always soccer and baseball tryouts in our town so we brought Tom there to see if he liked either sport and he could not even breathe when we walked outside.”
Poti’s family realized how severe his allergies were. Poti’s doctor suggested he try ice hockey to build his lung strength and keep him away from the outdoors. This was the perfect solution to Poti’s allergies. Right away Poti fell in love with the sport.
A career high for Poti came when he was elected to the 2002 Olympic Men’s Hockey team. The Olympic games were held in Salt Lake City where some of the most influential athletes of the world gathered to compete. Poti helped his team win a silver medal in the championship game at the Olympics.
Throughout his 11 years in the NHL, Poti has played 677 games, scored 67 goals and had 224 assists. He was named to the All-Rookie team his first year in the league, played in the league All-Star game in 2002-03, and was named NCAA East All-American team while at BU.
“I never thought I would be where I am today,” Poti said. “I feel so blessed to be a part of the NHL. I have gone through many ups and downs in my life and know how lucky I am to have been given an opportunity to play with some of the biggest names in hockey.”
Aside from hockey, Poti is a frequent visitor of the Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he gives guidance and support to those who share food allergies life himself. He is dedicated to advocating about how children at young ages can overcome allergies and move on with a normal lifestyle.
The triumph of Poti’s profession is noteworthy because of the obstacles he had to overcome to get where he is today. At the age of 31, he has accomplished more than he ever expected and has even more to look forward to.