Hamilton Bulldogs forward Ajay Baines has been named the team’s winner of the American Specialty/American Hockey League Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the city during the 2007-2008 season.
Baines, a 30-year-old native of Kamloops, B. C., has made the greatest commitment to the community and charitable organizations over the course of the season. He was the player representative for the Bulldogs’ annual ‘TD Canada Trust Smiles on Ice’ game, an event that has now raised over $225,000 for McMaster Children’s Hospital in the past 12 years. The ‘Dogs captain is also one of the team leaders in regularly scheduled player appearances at minor hockey practices, schools and autograph signings, including many unscheduled appearances in which Baines took it upon himself to enrich the lives of those less fortunate.
Living with Type 1 diabetes since the age of 16 and wearing an insulin pump at all times on the ice, Baines won the 2007 Canadian Diabetes Association’s Regional Inspiration Award earlier this season. The CDA’s Regional Inspiration Award is intended to recognize either an individual or family who has overcome great odds to manage their diabetes and continue to live a fulfilling, active and inspiring life. The individual or family has achieved success in their personal life or community, in spite of the diagnosis of the disease.
Baines became a representative of one of the Bulldogs Foundation’s new educational programs, “Read Like a Pro.” Players such as himself and the team’s mascot, Bruiser, would visit local schools, read to students and invite students to read to them to encourage literacy and reading. He was also the Bulldogs’ head table guest at the 57th Annual B’Nai Brith Sports Celebrity Dinner, and was heavily involved in the Foundation’s “Cool to Care” anti-bullying event.
Now a three-time winner of the award, Baines was previously named the Norfolk Admirals’ American Specialty/AHL Man of the Year twice in 2000-2001 and 2004-2005.
Baines is also now one of 29 finalists for the AHL’s 2007-2008 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the overall American Specialty/AHL Man of the Year. The league award is named after the former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 after a 16-month battle with leukemia. The winner of the award will be announced by the AHL in the coming weeks.