Former junior hockey star and longtime friend team up to write book for kids

Co-authors Ajay Baines, left, and Sean Campbell hold a copy of Stand Out:The True Story of Hockey Hero Ajay Baines. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC - image credit)
Co-authors Ajay Baines, left, and Sean Campbell hold a copy of Stand Out:The True Story of Hockey Hero Ajay Baines. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC - image credit)

At first, Ajay Baines wasn't keen on the idea.

Longtime friend and author Sean Campbell had approached him with the notion of writing a book about Baines's life in hockey, and the challenges he had overcome after a diabetes diagnosis in his teen years.

Baines — a former junior star with his hometown Kamloops Blazers who went on to play professionally for 10 seasons — was leaning toward saying no.

But when Campbell suggested the book could be for kids, Baines changed his mind.

"We were both fathers at the time, and … it's a completely different perspective," Baines said on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. "The more he talked about it, and read parts of the book to me, I was like, 'That sounds really cool, and let's do it.'"

Jenifer Norwell/CBC
Jenifer Norwell/CBC

Today the book is on the virtual shelves of Amazon. Co-authored by Campbell and Baines, and illustrated by Lana Lee, it's called Stand Out: The True Story of Hockey Hero Ajay Baines.

Through its gentle, sing-songy way of relaying Baines's story, it aims to inspire youngsters to work hard and never give up on their dreams.

If Bobby Clarke could do it, so could Ajay

Baines, who was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 16, said his first concern was whether he would still be able to play hockey.

Diabetes prevents a person's body from making enough insulin, and low insulin levels can result in fatigue, an irregular or fast heartbeat, headaches, nausea and other symptoms. People with diabetes must monitor their blood sugar levels and take insulin injections when necessary.

But when Baines's doctor asked him if he had heard of Bobby Clarke — a legendary member of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s and 1980s — and then told him Clarke was diabetic, Baines said he knew he could continue with his own career.

"Right away, you're like, 'Oh, so you can play hockey with this,'" Baines said.

Associated Press
Associated Press

"And then you meet the nutritionist, and you get on. I mean, it's a constant learning but … your friends and family and your trainers and your teammates and all that, everyone has a role to play in this."

Baines is insulin-dependent and uses a pump. By monitoring himself, eating well and exercising, he said he feels good on a day-to-day basis.

As a 17-year-old — the year after he was told he had diabetes — Baines earned a roster spot with the Western Hockey League's Blazers. He played four full seasons with them and even became their captain.

After junior hockey, he spent one season in the minor professional East Coast Hockey League, followed by nine in the American Hockey League (AHL), a step below the NHL.

In 2007, while a member of the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs, Baines scored the Calder Cup-winning goal in a 2-1 victory against the Hershey Bears.

Campbell, who lived near Baines throughout childhood, said Baines's story could easily be mistaken for fiction.

"I feel like if I had made this a fictional book, then an editor would be like, 'Sean, you need to take it easy, tone it down, you're laying it on pretty thick.'"

Stand Out: The True Story of Hockey Hero Ajay Baines is now available on Amazon. Campbell said it will be in bookstores soon.