AHL prodigy Ajay Baines launches “Stand Out,” an illustrated children’s book about overcoming diabetes to become a hockey legend.
Ajay Baines grew up in Kamloops, BC, and met his neighbor Sean at an early age. Ajay dominated local sports (soccer and hockey) and excelled academically. He once good-naturedly told Sean all about it on their walks home from school. That friendship would later become a collaboration that produced the book “Stand Out,” a moving story about overcoming a life-changing diagnosis.
In his teens, Ajay was playing hockey for Team BC when he knew something didn’t feel quite right. After meeting with his doctor, Ajay and his family were told he had diabetes. A difficult blow to a family that not only loved their son dearly but had aspirations of him playing professional hockey. Ajay’s first question to the doctor was “Can I still play hockey?”
The doctor asked if he knew who Bobby Clarke was and of course he said he did. Bobby Clarke—former center of the Philadelphia Flyers and acknowledged by some as one of the greatest hockey players and captains of all time—had diabetes and was a threat to his opponents every time he was on the ice, either to score goals or to put an opposing player in their place. Ajay knew it wouldn’t be easy, but there certainly was still a future in hockey.
Ajay and his family learned all they could about diabetes and how to manage it as a high-performing athlete. He made some mistakes but had help from amazing doctors, trainers, and family along the way. Fortunately for him, cutting-edge technology to help him monitor his condition was becoming available more and more. By the time he was playing in the WHL, Ajay could check his insulin levels from the bench, between shifts or periods.
Ajay made his hometown Kamloops Blazers WHL team in his teens. It was an absolute dream come true. This was the team that had recently won a number of memorial cups and featured future NHL hockey legends like Scott Niedermayer, Jerome Iginla, and Shane Doan. He quickly took on a leadership role and is the longest-serving captain in the team’s history to this day.
Ajay was a leader on every team he played on throughout his life, and this includes the Norfolk Admirals, Greenville Growl, and Hamilton Bulldogs. The Norfolk team was the farm club of the Chicago Blackhawks, right before they started to really dominate the NHL. Ajay helped players like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Dustin Byfuglien launch their professional careers.
A quote from Duncan Keith is featured in the book where he says, “As a first-year pro-hockey player, I was lucky to have a leader like Ajay on my team. He always had my back and looked out for us younger guys all the time.” This sentiment of respect and admiration for Ajay is consistent with his teammates throughout his career.
During his time with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Montreal Canadiens’ farm club at the time, he helped lead the team to the Calder Cup final in 2007. The Bulldogs featured several players who went on to the NHL, including the 19-year-old Carey Price, who went on to an outstanding career with the Canadiens. To add another chapter to his storybook career and life, Ajay took a feed from Maxim Lapierre and scored the game-winning goal. An incredible moment you can relive with the video below.
Along with being a legend on and off the ice, Ajay is the recipient of the Canadian Diabetes Inspiration Award.
“Stand Out” is co-authored by Sean Campbell and beautifully illustrated by Lana Lee. A percentage of sales from the book will go to Diabetes Canada and the American Diabetes Association.
Order your copy of “Stand Out: The True Story of Hockey Hero Ajay Baines” today.
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