A former Kamloops Blazers captain has teamed up with a local author to publish a children’s book about the health challenges he overcame while skating forward in his hockey career.
Ajay Baines battled through a diabetes diagnosis in his teens, and with the help of family, friends and trainers, went on to captain the Blazers and score the winning goal in the Calder Cup while he played for the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Baines said about three years ago, he was approached by his longtime friend and local author Sean Campbell about writing a book on his career.
“I was never one of those guys who goes ‘Oh, I want to write a biography about my career,’ you know? I played hockey and it was awesome. But then he says, ‘How about we do it in a children's style,’” Baines said.
“We both are fathers. And he's like, ‘Wouldn't it be cool if your kids could read this, and you can read it to them?’ And that kind of changed everything.”
The book is titled Stand Out: The True Story of Hockey Hero Ajay Baines. Illustrated by Lana Lee, the story includes themes of sportsmanship, inclusion, perseverance and leadership.
“Anyone playing hockey or any sport — you can even look at any line of profession — it takes a team. And I think that was one of the big things for me,” Baines said.
Campbell said it was fun going through the “storybook elements” of Baines’ life while writing the book, and noted Baines would always emphasize the support he received— not just in hockey, but in all areas of his life.
“There were lots of times where I would write something and he would be like, ‘Hey, you're kind of making it sound like I conquered diabetes on my own,’” Campbell said.
“He's like, ‘I had parents and I had amazing trainers throughout.’ And part of that is luck, and part of that is the team — not just your teammates in hockey, but the team of life. The people that you are so fortunate enough to be on your side and help you through these things as well.”
Baines said he also wants to encourage kids with diabetes through his story.
“It's not something to be to be shy about, or afraid about. Talk about it. Get out the open, you don’t need to hide it,” Baines said.
Campbell said they have already been approached with good feedback from parents with children who have diabetes.
“We've already heard from a number of parents who want us to come in and speak to their kids’ classrooms, which almost makes me start to cry, that we can have a positive impact and normalize it,” Campbell said.
A book launch for Stand Out will be held on Friday, Dec. 2 at The Commodore on Victoria Street, with Baines available for book signings.
The adults-only event will be held from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., with food offered by donation to Diabetes Canada.
Those interested in purchasing Stand Out are encouraged to attend the book launch to get their copy. Books can also be ordered through Amazon.
A percentage of the sales from the book will go to Diabetes Canada.