CBC Digital Archives

The Hockey Sweater

In a vast and often frozen land, they are rituals that bind. Dark drives to a chilly hockey arena. Blades biting outdoor ice. Kids in heroes' sweaters, mouthing their own play-by-plays. CBC drives to the net with an unabashedly affectionate look back at the grassroots of our national game — the true spirit of hockey.

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It's Christmastime. On CBC Radio's Morningside, that means a visit by Roch Carrier, author of the beloved children's story The Hockey Sweater. In Quebec in the 1940s, hockey was a religion and the Montreal Canadiens star Maurice (Rocket) Richard was a god. "The devil," to little boys in Roch's village, lived in Toronto and wore the blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In this clip, Carrier gives a delightful reading of his tale of hockey heartbreak.

His Canadiens sweater - bearing Richard's No. 9, like all the other boys - has worn out. But when a new one arrives in the mail from Eaton's, he is horrified to see instead a Maple Leafs jersey. Roch tearfully swears to his uncomprehending mother: "I'll never wear that uniform!" But wear it he does. After the story, listeners get an extra treat. Gzowski reads his own boyhood hockey sweater story. Carrier then declares: "This is a great moment." 
. Roch Carrier is a celebrated French-Canadian writer. He was born in 1937 and raised in Sainte-Justine, Que., the setting of The Hockey Sweater. His best-known novel, La Guerre, Yes Sir! (1968), is a First World War tale of French-English relations. It was translated into English in 1970.

. The Hockey Sweater was first published as Le chandail de hockey in a French-language collection of stories. The tale was translated into English by Sheila Fischman and published in a collection called The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories in 1979. A year later, the National Film Board turned it into an award-winning animated short, narrated by Carrier, called The Sweater. Carrier has received the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

. A passage from The Sweater is on the $5 bill unveiled in 2002, making Carrier the first author to be quoted on Canadian currency. It says, in English and French, "The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places - the school, the church and the skating rink - but our real life was on the skating rink." A girl is pictured playing hockey in a No. 9 sweater like the one in the story.

.The Hockey Sweater grew out of a request from the CBC to Carrier to write something answering the question, "What does Quebec want?" He has said he wrote a "flat" essay that he refused to put his name on. The CBC told him it had reserved time and announced his appearance so he had to write something. He thought about his boyhood, how he felt standing tall in his hockey gear, and he began writing the story.

. During the 2004 federal election, the National Post newspaper asked the federal leaders to name their favourite bedtime story. Prime Minister Paul Martin chose The Hockey Sweater.
• When the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Toronto in 1991, the official gifts from the government of Ontario included a selection of children's books. Among them was The Hockey Sweater for Prince William, then aged nine.

. At the 2004 opening of an exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa exploring Maurice Richard as a pan-Canadian hero, curator Sheldon Posen said: "French-Canada never forgot him, the affection never diminished. For the rest of Canada, it really began with people reading Roch Carrier's The Hockey Sweater and seeing there's a hero there they can appreciate, too."

. Richard and Carrier met four times, including a 1984 ceremony at Montreal's hockey shrine, The Forum, where Richard presented his famous No. 9 sweater to Carrier. The author has described another meeting, at a book fair, where Richard was nervous about meeting people "interested in books." But the crowd jumped to its feet and burst into applause. Richard quipped: "Roch, I didn't know you were so famous." Carrier's book Our Life with the Rocket was published in 2001.

. From 1994 to 1997, Carrier was director of the Canada Council for the Arts. He was appointed Canada's national librarian in 1999.
. Peter Gzowski's story about his own hockey sweater was published in the Morningside Papers. A legendary interviewer with a great love of the game, Gzowski wrote many books including The Game of Our Lives about the Edmonton Oilers. He died in January 2002.
Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: Dec. 25, 1984
Guest(s): Roch Carrier
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 19:19
Image of young Roch Carrier: from Libraries and Archives Canada, courtesy Roch Carrier's family.

Last updated: December 2, 2013

Page consulted on November 6, 2014

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