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They Don't Play Hockey in Heaven: A Dream, A Team, and My Comeback Season Hardcover – September 1, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 clichés, and he mentions his brain tumor so often it starts to feel calculating), the narrative remains touching and surprisingly effective.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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 © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592281494
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592281497
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,341,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book about life in minor league hockey is a really wonderful read. It's a fascinating combination of sports story and inner journey, told with just the right balance between excitement and introspection. There are lots of entertaining action moments in this book, but it also has its share of spiritual insights, although the author is not heavy-handed about them. I literally couldn't put this book down and ended up reading it cover-to-cover in one sitting. I heartily recommend it.
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By A Customer on September 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I could not put this book down. His determination to live his dream is a true inspiration. It tells us the ups and downs, the sacrifices he had to make to live that dream. As a goalie myself, I have to admit we are strange. Who else in their right mind would face men with razors on their feet, ready to to fire a vulcanized hockey puck at you as hard as they can.
I have dreams as well, and started playing goalie at the age of 45. After reading this book, in one sitting, I went out tonight and played the best game of my short career. It was my dream, but it pales in comparison to Ken's dream
The book also gives us an interesting "behind the locker room door" look at minor league hockey. But this is not a book just for hockey fans
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Format: Hardcover
If you like hockey or even if you don't you won't be able to put this book down. It's moving to the point of being captivating. In telling his comeback story Ken Baker reveals much about the inside workings of minor league pro hockey. He is transparent about his own life as well as presenting an expose on pro hockey. It's easy reading but also inspiring. This is one you'll want to read and pass on to your friends.
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Format: Hardcover
Ken Baker did a great job of captivating the reader's attention and holding it throughout. A great expose on minor league hockey and life in general. A motivating, moving and sincere story that will make you think, tear-up and follow your dreams.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I immediately wanted to continue reading the book, while beginning to read the first chapter called, "Dream". The paragraph beginning at the bottom of page 258 gives all the maxims that anyone needs to live a reasonably happy life. Although, I'm not a die hard hockey fan, it was fun reading the names of the NHL players that I remember from the 80's. I have always admired Bruce Sutter, starting with his time with the Blackhawks.
Sincerely, A Chicago Blackhawk Fan.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book really gave me a feel for what it is like to be in love with a sport. Meeting all the characters and the sacrifices they make for what they love to do is humbling. Ken Baker is a star even if it is not at hockey.
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Format: Hardcover
Was this the best book ever written on hockey? Of course not but it is a very entertaining read.Now the reviewer from buffalo seems like he has an axe to grind.Yes this may have been low minor league hockey but who of us woundnt persue the same dream if we had the choice.Having worked in minor league hockey I found alot of his stories to ring true and being a former goalie who never got to pursue his dream its nice to sort of live it through someone else.I applaud Mr Baker for his book and for his having the ability to follow his dream.I hope he has continued sucess in what ever he moves on to.Im happy to have read his book and recommend it to any true hockey fan.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic book that puts you right on the buses, benches, and bars with the lowest of the low minor pro hockey leagues. Ken Baker does an excellent job inviting the reader into his quest for The Dream...to play pro hockey. I found myself with tears in my eyes at times reading this book, and other times I was laughing out loud. You don't even have to like hockey or sports to love this book...you just have to have a dream, and the desire to follow it.
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