SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that center Ajay Baines of the Iowa Chops has been named the 2008-09 winner of the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award as the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.
The award is voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 29 cities.
The captain of the first-year Chops, Baines has long been a well respected member of the American Hockey League. Since being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a teenager, Baines, who wears an insulin pump at all times on the ice, has carved out a successful career that included a Calder Cup championship with Hamilton in 2007. This season with Iowa, the 5-foot-10, 182-pound Baines has topped the 70-game mark for the seventh time in the AHL, totaling seven goals and 23 assists for 30 points in 77 contests while accumulating a career-low 53 penalty minutes.
A 31-year-old native of Kamloops, B.C., Baines was undrafted out of junior hockey but has gone on to play 645 games in the American Hockey League over the past nine seasons. Before wearing the “C” in Iowa he served as team captain in both Norfolk and Hamilton, and scored the Cup-clinching goal for the Bulldogs in the 2007 finals.
This award, which was first presented by the AHL in 1978, honors the late Fred T. Hunt, a long-time contributor to the league who won three Calder Cup championships as a player and three more as a general manager. Previous winners of the award include Ross Yates (1983), Glenn Merkosky (1987, ’91), Bruce Boudreau (1988), Murray Eaves (’89, ’90), John Anderson (1992), Tim Tookey (1993), Ken Gernander (1996, 2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2000), Mark Cullen (2006), Mike Keane (2007) and Jordan Sigalet (2008).
Currently in its 73rd season of play, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 85 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 50 million fans have attended AHL games across North America over the past eight years. The 2008-09 regular season ends on Sunday, and 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.