Not that he isn’t busy enough already, Steinbach-based NHL player agent Ray Petkau, who represents the likes of NHL stalwarts Connor Hellebuyck and James Reimer, among others, is also involved in the creation of a new book project together with another player he represents, Jermaine Loewen.
Loewen, 22, who hails from Arborg, is just embarking on his professional hockey career after being drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2019, and is now with the Vegas Golden Knights organization, and will be playing for their new AHL affiliate this season at Henderson, Nevada, called the Silver Knights.
But his path to the pros is anything from the normal path when you consider he grew up on the Canadian prairies.
Loewen was born in Jamaica and was adopted from an orphanage there at the age of five by the Loewen family from Arborg.
Like many around him, young Jermaine grew up playing hockey in the Arborg area and blossomed into a junior hockey star. But because of his Jamaican heritage, and being black, he also encountered racism and has lived with the pressure of racial prejudice for much of his life.
Advancing on after playing bantam and midget with the regional Interlake Lightning programs, Loewen went on to spend four years with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, and was captain of the team in his final year in Kamloops. At 6’4" and 220 lbs, the big forward has size and leadership skills.
And it is the life story of Jermaine Loewen that precipitated the writing of a book by Steinbach author and illustrator Thom Van Dycke.
Ari’s Awful Day is a book written for young school children that tackles the enemy of racism through a story of kindness. Although racism is not a word that appears in the book, it is the theme of the story, along with kindness, friendship and courage. It is a story of two kids who overcome their differences by an act of kindness, and more.
In the book, Van Dycke has developed resources for families, lesson plans for teachers, as well as children’s activities to complement the book and help kids learn the value of kindness.
Petkau says this is a project that has been on his mind for a while. "I had an idea to give back to the community by getting some good quality books into the hands of young kids to invest in a bright, hopeful future."
In discussing the direction of the book with Van Dycke, Petkau said they had to change course a bit when race tensions really flared up in the summer "and we decided to change direction to address racism and the importance of being kind people, and that’s when we enlisted the help of my personal friend and client Jermaine Loewen."
"His experiences as one of the only kids of colour in a rural community proved to be an invaluable insight into the experience of "Mainer", one of the book’s main characters."
It is a story told from the perspective of the "bully" and then from the perspective of the "new kid", and how both eventually meet in the middle.
In addition to the book, there are activities for kids and resources for parents and teachers available on the website www.arithelion.com.
The book is currently on sale for $11.99 for a paperback through the website or on Amazon.