Former College and Professional Goalie Turned Author Ken Baker Talks About His Hockey Memoir and Lessons Learned From a Life in Hockey
Acclaimed author Ken Baker recently sat down with The Hockey Think Tank Podcast not to talk about X’s and O’s, but rather the life-long lessons everyone can learn from playing the greatest sport in the world. Before Ken became the author of nearly ten books and worked in Hollywood as a celebrity journalist, he was a goalie at Colgate University and a top USA Hockey prospect growing up outside of Buffalo, New York.
Ken tells the story of how in his mid-twenties he learned he had a debilitating brain tumor that, after being surgically removed, motivated him to make a comeback and become the oldest rookie in pro hockey at age 31. He wrote a book about his experience titled, “They Don’t Play Hockey in Heaven,” which has sold thousands of copies and continues to inspire hockey players and fans alike.
“I think the reason why my book has remained so popular is that it really isn’t just about hockey,” Baker tells the podcast. “It is a story about how important it is for all of us to follow our dreams. I wanted to call it, ‘Everything I Know About Life I Learned Playing Hockey,’ but the publisher wouldn’t let me.”
Baker is now a successful marketing executive to global firms who is based in Chicago where he is a goalie dad to a teenage son and daughter who play AAA hockey there. Baker emphasizes that the hockey-learned lessons of learning from your mistakes, using regret as a motivator to be better and other lessons about “not being perfect” has helped him and hopes it can help others too. He opens up about how playing hockey at the highest levels prepared him for many of the challenges that he would face in his life after hockey.
“Hockey teaches you that life is not perfect,” Baker shares. “You will make mistakes, you will fail. But there’s always another game, another chance to be better and to not let your past define the improved person who you are in the present.” He adds, “There will be critics, not everyone will be your fan. It might be a coach, a player or a cyber-bully hater, a co-worker – anyone who wants to take away your joy. But at the end of the day you have to believe in yourself and your abilities to overcome things. You can’t avoid setbacks. They will happen. But you can control how you choose to react to them and how you will let them teach how to be better. This is all stuff I learned from my life in and around hockey for forty years.”
Whether it is professional obstacles or personal self-growth efforts, Baker says that he has developed a spiritual approach to life that is not only informed by spiritual study but also ice hockey. “We live in a comparison culture and it can be very hard for people, especially kids, to deal with,” Baker tells the podcast. “The Buddha said, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ In other words, if you really want to be not joyful, to be miserable, then spend your time comparing your life to others. I tell this to my kids all the time because with social media it is very easy to fall into the comparison trap.” He adds that it is also a lesson for hockey parents. “If you want to suck the joy out of your kid’s hockey experience, then just start comparing them to other players and criticizing their development compared to other players. They will lose their joy for the sport. The same rules apply to life away from hockey. If you look hard enough you will always find someone richer, someone better looking, someone who appears happier than you. If you focus on them, who you can’t control at all, then are wasting time that could be spent working on yourself, which is in your control.”
Baker’s most recent book explored his spiritual side. That memoir, “The Ken Commandments: My Search for God in Hollywood,” is an unflinchingly honest account of grappling with anxiety, depression and life in the Hollywood fast lane that moved him to make major life changes for the betterment of his personal health and happiness. Learn more about The Ken Commandments here: https://www.amazon.com/Ken-Commandments-Search-God-Hollywood/dp/0451497953/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=the+ken+commandments&qid=1584114300&sr=8-2
Baker reveals that he uses hockey lessons to inspire his kids – and himself – to always look to aim high in life endeavors. “I think it’s really important to have dreams and aspirations and have the courage to put yourself out there.”
You can get a copy of his hockey memoir here. https://www.amazon.com/They-Dont-Play-Hockey-Heaven/dp/1592286054/ref=sr_1_1?crid=39Q2DPYVOTHKH&keywords=they+dont+play+hockey+in+heaven&qid=1584113805&sprefix=they+dont+play+hockey+in+heaven%2Caps%2C169&sr=8-1