By Jesse Liebman
The first book I ever learned to read was a children’s book about Wayne Gretzky. If you know me, that shouldn’t come as a shock to you.
Meanwhile, Solar Bears forward Brady Shaw learned to read as a child thanks to an entire book series written by his mother — about him!
Now imagine the shock in a classroom full of young schoolchildren when the 26-year-old hockey player finished reading a copy of Brady Brady and the Great Rink and revealed – “Yep, that’s me!”
As the Solar Bears prepared for their upcoming School Day Game on Nov. 6, Shaw and several of his teammates visited Foundation Academy in Winter Garden in late October to read to classrooms of young children who will be attending the 10:30 a.m. game against the Jacksonville Icemen.
Shaw naturally chose to read Brady Brady and the Great Rink, one of the 15 titles in the Brady Brady series, and his personal favorite.
While most of the stories in of the popular Brady Bradybook series are largely fictional – no, Brady never actually built a hockey rink in his backyard – they draw their inspiration from his love of ice hockey as a child. Since 2004, the Brady Brady series has sold nearly a combined 500,000 books.
Creating Brady Brady
The genesis of Brady Brady was prompted when Brady’s mother, Mary, wanted to find a way to get her energetic five-year-old son interested in reading, after noticing a lack of sports-themed books geared towards young children.
“He was always in the basement, playing mini-sticks, or in the driveway, taking shots on net,’’ Mary Shaw told the Orlando Sentinel. “Then I would drag him into the bookstore and the library and beg him to pick out a book. He would come out empty-handed.’’
Mary decided to take matters into her own hands.
“Growing up I wasn’t much of a reader, so my mom started writing them as a hobby to get me more involved in books,” Brady explained. “She knew my interests were in sports, and hockey specifically, so she was able to write a couple of books and get me hooked.”
After Mary wrote an initial manuscript and paired it with illustrations from artist Chuck Temple, a meeting with representatives from Stoddart – Canada’s largest publisher at the time – resulted in an initial four-book deal, and from there the series took off. Even after a scare when Stoddart filed for bankruptcy protection, Mary Shaw and Temple reacquired the rights to the series and formed their own publishing company, Brady Brady Inc.
From there, the series has resulted in a published list of 15 titles in hockey (12), baseball (2) and football (1), all featuring Brady Shaw’s always-smiling illustrated doppelgänger – with the 16th book in the series due out next year.
What’s the fallout of being the inspiration for a famous book series?
As Brady progressed through youth hockey and eventually made it to the college ranks before turning pro within the Colorado Avalanche pipeline last season, his quasi-celebrity status has become a natural ice-breaker in the locker room and has helped Brady bond with new teammates.
“[Solar Bears defenseman] Mike Monfredo doesn’t let me forget it much these days,” Brady says with a smile.
In some instances, it’s a mind-blowing experience for Brady’s teammates when the realization that the Brady they’ve been skating with is *the* Brady Brady they read about as a child.
Solar Bears forward Colby McAuley was an avid reader of the series as a child and routinely made the book a must-buy whenever his school hosted a book fair.
“I’d get them and bring the books home,” McAuley said. “The next time I’m home, I’ll have to try and find them and have Brady autograph them. Growing up in a hockey family, that was one of the books you’d read as a young kid. Knowing who he is now, it makes the books even better.”
More importantly, the books have given Brady a chance to connect with young members of the community. He’s given countless school visits in his hockey career, each geared towards helping children discover the magic of reading.
“I enjoy the visits,” Brady said. “It’s a way to give back, and to see the smile on a kid’s face, it make me feel young again.”
SCHOOL DAY GAME:
The Solar Bears return home to host the team’s annual School Day Game against the Jacksonville Icemen on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 10:30 a.m. at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center.
All Central Florida K-12 schools are invited to spend the morning with Orlando’s professional hockey team in a field trip atmosphere, where students will enjoy a unique educational experience while witnessing the fast-paced action of live ice hockey. Students will receive hockey-related educational materials that are consistent with STEM standards and cover math, science, geography and more.
A complimentary lunch will be provided for all students in attendance.
CLICK HERE to purchase tickets.