Baines battles to make Habs
In an effort to keep tabs on the hockey players I went to high school with, here's a few words on Ajay Baines that were in the Montreal Gazette a few days back:
Ajay Baines is a long way from home, but the Kamloops, B.C., native signed with the Canadiens because "I heard they were looking for some veterans in Hamilton. They have a lot of young players in the organization."Ajay was a hometown captain the Kamloops Blazers in junior hockey — where he played with Bob Gainey's son Steve — and one of those guys who has a ton of heart and brings more in intangibles than scoring aptitude. He's undersized and was never drafted, so the odds are against him ever really making a big impact.
At 28, Baines has played six seasons in the AHL. He had a brief taste of the NHL when the Chicago Blackhawks called him up for the playoffs in 2002.
"They called up four of us," he explained. "We didn't dress, but it was still a great experience."
Baines is a rarity in pro hockey because he is of South Asian descent. While he was born in Kamloops, his parents came to Canada from India. The only East Indian player in the NHL is Manny Malhotra, who played for Columbus last season.
"I'd like to see more East Indians playing," he said. "I think when I was growing up, it might have been a cultural thing with people clinging to old traditions, but it might change because more young people are Canadianized."
He was also a really nice guy, and it'd be great if, at some point, he was able to skate in an NHL game.
As for other Kamloops kids, well former Wild prospect Chris Heid went to Germany after spending most of last year in the ECHL, and Darcy Robinson looks like he'll be back playing in Italy this season.
No NHLers yet, but it was a pretty small high school.