Ken Dryden on The Next Chapter

Every year, the Canada Reads authors sit down with The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers to discuss their life, writing and what it's like to have their book up for national debate. We will share all the interviews on the Canada Reads website. 

First up:  Shelagh's chat with Ken Dryden, author of The Game. This interview originally aired on the December 19, 2011, episode of The Next Chapter.

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Ken Dryden's 1983 memoir, The Game, is regarded by many as one of the great insider books about professional sport. But most people who read The Game say it's about much more than hockey. It's really a book about life.

When writing The Game, Dryden didn't have any lofty goals. He wasn't trying to capture the essence of professional hockey in the 1970s or make a poignant statement about what it meant to walk away at the top of your game. Instead, he simply chronicled the year as he remembered it. "I didn't think of it as a memoir," he said. "I thought of it as just trying to get down what i had seen and thought and felt."

The Game shifts back and forth in time. Experiences with the Montreal Canadiens trigger memories, and Dryden drifts back to his childhood in Etobicoke, Ontario. These years were essential to Dryden's development as a hockey player. His parents were so keen to keep Ken and his brother near home that they turned their backyard into a hockey rink. "When I think of childhood, I think of our backyard," Ken said.

There, Ken and his older brother, Dave, played endlessly. Dave was six years older and Ken idolized him. For Ken, deciding what position to play in "Dryden's backyard" was easy. When asked why he chose to mind the net, Ken admits that "there wasn't a decision to make." Dave was a goalie. Ken would be a goalie too.

Ken would follow his brother all the way to the NHL. Five Stanley Cups, five Vezina Trophies and five all-star distinctions later, it's safe to say that Ken Dryden is now more than "Dave's little brother." Since retiring from the NHL in 1979, Ken has added writer and politician to his already impressive resumé. But, like his younger self, he struggles with these labels.

"I am not a writer, I am somebody who writes. I am not a Member of Parliament, I was somebody who was a Member of Parliament. I was not a hockey player, I was somebody who played hockey. And that's the connection between all of those things," he said. "They were all expressions of me in one form or another."

Writer. Politician. Hockey player. Father. Brother. Son. Husband. Ken Dryden is all of these things. And so much more.

The Game will be defended by actor Alan Thicke in the Canada Reads 2012 debates. The debates will air at 11 a.m. (11:30 a.m. in Nfld.) on CBC Radio One and will be livestreamed on CBC Books at 10 a.m. ET on February 6,7, 8 and 9.

Image: Tanja-Tiziana Burdi/CBC

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