David Fessenden has quickly made himself at home in Buffalo’s culinary landscape.
A goalie on the Canisius University hockey team, Fessenden doesn’t hesitate to name his favorite chicken wings: Elmwood Village’s Forty Thieves.
His first brunch option is Betty’s in Allentown.
He’s still trying to decide what his favorite pizza place is – if chicken wings are a delicacy, then Buffalo pizza is a low-key treat.
“Living in a new city is really interesting to me,” said Fessenden, who joins the Golden Griffins as a transfer from New Hampshire. “I like to take in everything, and the food here is amazing. I have the Google app and it saves every restaurant I go to.”
Fessenden is a fifth-year senior, and is likely to be Canisius’ starting goalie when it opens the season with a two-game series that begins Friday at Miami (Ohio).
Fessenden has discovered Buffalo’s culinary indulgences, but in the last two years, he has negotiated his own health and quality of life as a college athlete, after he was diagnosed with hyperhidrosis. It’s a condition in which a person sweats excessively or uncontrollably, and almost at uncertain times.
According to International Hyperhidrosis Society, the condition affects more than 380 million people worldwide, and medical research estimates it impacts more than 15 million Americans. Angela Ballard, an educator and advocate with the International Hyperhidrosis Society, said many people might not realize excessive sweating is actually a medical condition, and not just the body’s response to stress, excitement or being nervous.
In hockey, skaters wear about 20-30 pounds of gear. Goalies wear between 40-50 pounds of equipment during a game, which can further accelerate sweating, to the point of dehydration. Fessenden must hydrate through the course of a day. He keep extra equipment in the locker room – including two pairs of goalie gloves, two pairs of pants, and two sets of chest protectors, at a minimum – as jerseys and pads can get soaked. He also weighs himself after games.
There’s been instances where he’s shed at least 20 pounds in a game, due to losing fluids. There were two instances when he had to be hospitalized due to dehydration.
Fessenden even takes fastidious notes about what he eats and drinks, and even how much he sweats and how he feels, health-wise. He openly discusses his medical condition, in the hopes of becoming an advocate and a resource for others.
“It can be a scary thing,” said Fessenden, who is from Parker, Colo. “You feel completely isolated sometimes. It’s such an odd disease, an odd illness, or what you’d consider it. If I can help people find a voice, or find help? That’s what I was wishing for when I was going through it.”
Sweating is a natural occurrence in humans, to control body temperature, to release stress, and sometimes as a reaction to eating spicy foods or being nervous around a potential romantic interest or a hiring manager.
For an athlete, sweating comes with the territory of intense training. In hockey, that involves on-ice practices, off-ice conditioning and weight lifting and even the stretching that is done before and after workouts.
For Fessenden, his condition went undiagnosed until after he twice received medical attention for extreme exhaustion and dehydration. It caused full-body cramping and the onset of rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood, which can cause kidney and heart damage.
Fessenden was first hospitalized in December 2019 at Alabama-Huntsville, when he cramped up so much during a practice that it immobilized him and he had to be helped off the ice.
He was hospitalized again in February 2021, when he had full-body cramping during a game at Northern Michigan, and again had to be helped off the ice.
He transferred to New Hampshire in 2021 and underwent medical testing two years ago at the Korey Stringer Institute – named after the Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman who died of exertional heat stroke in 2001 – at the University of Connecticut.
Fessenden learned he was producing at least four liters of sweat an hour. The average human being produces about one liter of sweat an hour. He learned he had hyperhidrosis, and the diagnosis brought Fessenden relief.
“That was a big part of my life, when I finally figured out what was wrong,” Fessenden said. “I get full-body cramps. I go into rhabdomyolysis and finally got diagnosed, and now I’m playing hockey and I’m happy.”
It also sparked a lifestyle change. He modified his diet, and lost 30 pounds after the initial diagnosis. He drinks a minimum of two gallons of water a day, beginning with 64 ounces soon after he wakes up, and drinks water every hour. He takes in supplements that include at least 5,000 milligrams of sodium a day.
He has an appetite, but has to be mindful of the foods he regularly eats – focusing on foods such as leafy greens, fish, seeds and nuts, and olive oil – to help stave off inflammation.
“It’s really hard to re-hydrate myself, and I have to be very proactive about it,” Fessenden said. “But I’ve found a groove where I can play and not be at risk of any medical issues, so I am just happy to have another year.”
Getting to Canisius
Fessenden spent the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons at Alabama-Huntsville, which dropped its hockey program in 2021 due to funding issues and a lack of conference affiliation.
He spent the last two seasons at New Hampshire, where he had a .911 save percentage and a 2.53 goals against average in 36 games, and had an extra year of eligibility due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“He is athletic, but he uses his ability to read the play as a big attribute,” Canisius coach Trevor Large said of Fessenden. “He is a very calm goalie, in net. His depth made him very attractive to us, meaning he’s not a goalie that has to come way out of the net to take down angles. He doesn’t put himself in a poor position for a second save. And he’s very, very difficult to beat on the first shot.”
The Griffs dipped into the transfer portal to find a successor to goalie Jacob Barczewski. Barczewski started 32 of the Griffs’ 42 games in 2022-23 and helped them to the Atlantic Hockey Association tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but transferred to Michigan in April. Barczewski’s backup, John Hawthorne, had a fifth year of eligibility but was accepted to law school.
Large was deliberate in how he would fill the roster spot with two goalies: Recruit an incoming freshman, and find a goalie in the transfer portal who had Division I playing experience. Those recruits ultimately became Fessenden and freshman Ethan Robertson, who join Alex Houston, a junior.
“He’s bringing a very clear focus of what he wants to get out of one year,” Large said of Fessenden. “He has to come in and he has been showing us how hard he works, how focused he is and how determined he is, as a person, and his expectation is, this is going to be a great year.”
Large also had a pitch: Come to Buffalo, and help us make another NCAA Tournament.
“When you talk to players from the portal (as a coach) and you come out of winning an Atlantic Hockey championship and an NCAA Tournament, they say the same thing, ‘I want to do that. I want to know what that’s like,’ ” Large said. “He hasn’t had that experience yet, in his college career, of winning a championship and playing in an NCAA Tournament. His hope and our hope is that he’ll get that out of this season.”