Profiles

Book series connects hockey mom and son

Brady Brady Mary Shaw
The author of the Brady Brady children's sports book series stands next to her inspiration and son. (Photo courtesy of Mary Shaw)

While teammates for the San Antonio Rampage, forward Brady Shaw and goalie Spencer Martin developed an instant, yet unlikely connection.

Shaw and Martin both had read a children’s book series called Brady Brady. This series featured 15 stories in total. The central character Brady had many adventures playing hockey in 12 stories, football once and baseball twice.

As Martin would learn through a feature on the Rampage website, the character Brady was based on Shaw himself.

“We had a good laugh about it,” Shaw told Pucks and Recreation. “It has been cool to hear stories like that from players and fans about the books.”

Brady, now an Orlando Solar Bear in the ECHL, became a children’s book character because of his mother, Mary.

“Brady Brady was just going to be a single story,” Mary explained to Pucks and Rec. “I was looking for a way for my young son, Brady, to become interested in reading.

“He wasn’t interested in ‘fuzzy bunnies’ or ‘talking bear families’. He wanted to read about little boys like himself. It was my original publisher (Stoddart Kids) that saw the potential in a book series.”

Mary called the series Brady Brady because she often had to call her son’s name twice to get his attention. Brady’s passion for sports made Mary realize that enticing her son to read would likewise require extra effort. She had to create characters and stories connected to his life.

Noticing a gap in the children’s market for sports books, Mary teamed up with illustrator Chuck Temple. They began publishing their novels in 2001 with Stoddart Kids.

Stoddart produced four books under the Brady Brady name before filing for bankruptcy. Mary and Temple reacquired the rights and founded an independent publishing company, Brady Brady Inc., in 2004.

Because Brady grew up playing hockey, soccer and volleyball, Mary had an abundant supply of bases for her plotlines.

“I always had my ears and eyes open at my kids’ sporting events,” she said.  “I was always looking for storylines or anecdotes to use for upcoming material.

“I’m actually finding it harder to write now, since my kids have all left home and I don’t have to drive them to their games. Some of the characters in the book are loosely based on the real Brady’s buddies and his two sisters.”

Brady’s sisters, Taylor and Caroline, also played hockey until about age 16. In fact, Caroline was the only girl on her high-school hockey team in Columbus, Ohio.

They were following a family tradition. Mary’s husband Brad was both a player and a coach in the pros. Brad played for Hartford and Ottawa in his NHL days. He has since coached for Tampa Bay, the New York Islanders, St. Louis and Columbus. In between, he had lengthy stops with the IHL’s Detroit Vipers and AHL’s Cincinnati Mighty Ducks.

One particular interaction stood out for Mary during her husband’s time coaching.

“One of my most memorable moments with regards to the book was when a young boy who was participating in a hockey school my husband was instructing skated up to him and said, ‘Are you Mrs. Shaw’s husband?’” she recalled.

She also joked that featuring her son as a book character would work well as a pick-up line when he got to the University of Vermont. “Hey, do you know I’m a children’s book character?”

But for Brady, the unique celebrity took time to grow on him.

“I think growing up at first, I was a little embarrassed,” he reflected. “However, my friends read the books and spread the word to their friends.

“When I was playing junior hockey in Coquitlam (in 2011-12), my mom was at the rink with a whole box of books, handing them out to parents. My teammates at the time had a hard time believing that I was actually a character. They even had to call her to confirm it.

“Looking back on it now, it has become really special to be a part of these stories.”

Brady easily identifies his mother’s work debut work, Brady Brady and the Great Rink, as his personal favorite.

“It had a personal significance for me,” he said. “My dad coached in different places like Tampa, Cincinnati and Detroit. In this book, the character Brady is determined to play on an outdoor rink. That was never really an option for me, so it was special to see that dream come true in print.”

Beyond their immediate family, Brady Brady impacted others’ lives.

“I do get e-mails from teachers and parents who mention the positive impact the books have had on boys in their classroom who haven’t connected with books yet,” said Mary.  “They see a hockey-obsessed character like themselves, and there is an instant connection.”

Partnerships with USA Hockey, the Montreal Canadiens Foundation and the Calgary Flames Foundation have only spread Brady Brady to more schoolchildren. The Canadiens and Flames offer a program where representatives read a book via a video feed and the students answer questions based on the storyline. Even some players have participated.

Mary has also volunteered at local schools where she interacts with fans of her work.

“I love doing school visits, especially in Canadian schools, where most of the kids are hockey crazy,”she said.

“I did a book tour of southern Saskatchewan one winter.  The reception from kids; drawings, reciting lines from my book, dressing up as the characters. It was amazing.

“I also visited Fairbanks, Alaska, two winters ago for Hockey Week in Fairbanks. We handed out Brady Brady books at a game between the University of Alaska-Anchorage and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and we skated on a rink that had won a best-rink contest. A school did a Brady Brady skit. A sculptor even had carved out all the book characters in ice.”

The real-life, Brady, too, has seen the impact the books have had on young children. And perhaps his recent ECHL championship with the Colorado Eagles will serve as the basis for another story.

“It was cool to win a championship in my first full professional season,” said Brady on their victory over the Florida Everblades in a tough seven-game series. “It was special to win with a great group of guys. We knew at the start of the year we had a chance to win it all.

“It may be an adjustment to playing in Orlando because we will be facing some adversity this year. I hope to do what I can to help them win.”

After his playing career, Brady reflected on whether he may himself write one day.

“I can’t see myself doing that right now,” he said. “But you never know what the future may hold.”

While Brady continues to play hockey, Mary will continue supporting her son and husband with whatever team they play or coach for.

“I’ve been a Whalers, Sens, Detroit Vipers, Lightning and an Islanders’ fan,” she said. “More recently, I was a Blues fan for 10 years. Now I’ve switched to a different shade of blue, and I’m a Blue Jackets fan.

“Of course, I also cheer for whichever team Brady is playing for…so now I’m a Solar Bears fan.”

Beyond supporting her family in hockey, Mary remains motivated by the strong impact the books have had on her fans.

“I’m inspired to write these stories because I’m hoping it encourages little boys to read,” said Mary. “Girls have always outnumbered boys as far as reading books.

“It’s worked for some boys, as I get positive feedback from teachers and parents letting me know that, ‘Finally, we are getting little boys to read because it’s a topic that they are interested in.’”

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