Book Review: They Don’t Play Hockey in Heaven (2003)

I know. It’s July and hot and humid. Maybe that’s why Ken Baker’s They Don’t Play Hockey in Heaven made it out of the TBR stack.

As a teenager, Baker was considered an Olympic-caliber ice hockey goalie. Yet while at Colgate, an NCAA Division I hockey program, he seemed to lose his touch. A few years later, Baker learned he had a brain tumor a few inches behind his eyes. Most of it was successfully removed but Baker had to remain on medication.

Now in his 30s and not knowing whether the tumor was responsible for the end of his hockey career, Baker and his wife decide he should pursue his childhood dream of being a professional hockey player. He leaves his job as a journalist and ends up as a third-string backup goalie with a minor league hockey club in Bakersfield, Calif. The book is the story of his “comeback” year with that club, his life in hockey and a look at life in minor league hockey.

Despite Baker’s efforts to make this a story of determination and inspiration, it is basically a tale of hockey life. As such, it is probably strictly for hockey fans. It is not of the same caliber as Open Net, George Plimpton’s tale of being a goalie in a Boston Bruins training camp. (Of course, comparing almost any author of a sports book to George Plimpton is probably unfair.) Yet anyone with an interest in hockey life below the NHL level likely will find Baker’s story a worthwhile read.

Minor league hockey crowds are moodier than unmedicated manic-depressives[.]

Ken Baker, They Don’t Play Hockey in Heaven

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