Cover image for They don't play hockey in heaven : a dream, a team, and my comeback season
They don't play hockey in heaven : a dream, a team, and my comeback season
Baker, Ken, 1970-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Guilford, Conn. : Lyons Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
282 pages : illustrations, photographs ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV848.4.U6 B34 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"A riveting and often hilarious account." -The Hockey News

"Inspirational . . . colorful descriptions make this a fun read." -Los Angeles Times "One of the best sports books of the year." -Booklist

Ken Baker wanted nothing more than to play ice hockey with the pros-until a brain tumor cut his dreams short while in college. After surgery and several years of rehab, Baker, who in high school was a top prospect for the U.S. Olympic team, put his successful journalism career on hold to attempt the seemingly impossible: a comeback.

He moved away from his family to become the third-string goalie for the Bakersfield Condors, an AA-level minor-league team in the dusty oil town of Bakersfield, California. At the age of thirty-one, Baker became the oldest rookie in all of pro-hockey, facing 100-m.p.h. slap shots and long bus rides, hostile fans and cheap motel rooms, body bruises, and battle-worn teammates.

From his visit to an NHL training camp to his first nerve-rattled minutes as a pro, Baker joins the rookies who still dream of making it to the Show, the veterans long past their prime, and the obsessive fans who keep them going. When the season is over, Baker's pro-hockey adventure ends up teaching him nearly everything he will ever need to know about life.

Author Notes

KEN BAKER is the West Coast executive editor at Us Weekly and his work has appeared in The Washington Post, Premiere, and ESPN magazine. A native of Buffalo, New York, Baker is also the author of the critically acclaimed Man Made: A Memoir of My Body. He has all his teeth.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Hockey exerts a mesmerizing hold on its participants and fans, as exploits like Baker's attest. Once a highly touted high-school player, considered a strong possibility for the U.S. Olympic team, goalie Baker's pro hockey aspirations were forestalled during college by a brain tumor. After his recovery, the allure of the fast-paced hockey world surged within him again. He took a break from a budding journalism career to give hockey a last shot, joining the minor-league Bakersfield (California) Condors. And he was back in that strange but serene world between the pipes, blocking biscuit-sized pieces of hard rubber hurtling at him at speeds up to 100 mph. Ah, sports bliss! Baker's story conjures the spirit of another great tale of boisterous minor-league hockey, the movie Slap Shot, but possessed of the old-pro-in-the-minor-leagues charm of that classic baseball flick, Bull Durham. Better than celluloid by virtue of being a professional writer's true story, Baker's tale of an old goalie's last stab at playing in the NHL is one of the sports books of the year. --Mike Tribby Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Eight years after his college hockey career ended and two years after a successful brain surgery, Baker, a writer for U.S. Weekly, decided to try to play professional hockey for the first time. After working out at recreational rinks, he made the jump to a low-level minor-league team as an emergency goalie, in the oil-town of Bakersfield, Calif., (surprisingly, a hockey hotbed), for a team willing to take him on in the name of research. In a style that is equal parts George Plimpton-gonzo and Rocky Balboa-triumphalism, the author spends much of the book chronicling the culture of the team and his intense desire to play on it. Indeed, he gets almost no ice time; the story derives its suspense not from the question "how he will play?" but the question "will they ever let him play?". Yet Baker's account maintains a powerful narrative thrust, thanks to the neat structure of a professional sports season and the author's appealing psychological candor. Baker also shows great range-the characters on his team are colorful and the descriptions of life at the lowest echelons of professional sports are as poignant as they are startling. Though he lets in a few cheap lines (he has a tendency toward the maudlin as well as toward locker-room and self-help cliches, and he mentions his brain tumor so often it starts to feel calculating), the narrative remains touching and surprisingly effective. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

As a teenage Olympic prospect, Baker wanted to play in the National Hockey League (NHL). However, by his senior year at Colgate University, the opportunity to play pro hockey had not yet materialized. Disillusioned, he moved on to become a journalist. Baker's world came to a grinding halt when a pituitary tumor was discovered in his brain. After a life-saving operation, he decided to live life to the fullest, putting his journalist career on hold to attempt a hockey comeback. At 31, Baker joined the Bakersfield (CA) Condors (a minor pro club) as a third-string goalie, becoming the oldest rookie in the league. Here he chronicles his trials and tribulations on the team and those of the many aging veterans who still have aspirations of playing in the NHL. Currently, Baker (Man Made: A Memoir of My Body) is the West Coast Bureau Chief for U.S. Weekly. A heartwarming tale of courage and determination; buy where demand warrants.-Larry R. Little, Penticton P.L., B.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.