It’s 30 years since Roch Carrier published The Hockey Sweater. Sheldon Cohen’s film for the National Film Board came later, in 1980, but first there was the story, in French, “Une abominable feuille d’érable sur la glace,” followed by Sheila Fischman’s English translation. As Tundra Books prepares to unleash a special anniversary edition this fall, we can’t deny the enduring power of its very modern message, the gist of which is as important nowadays to those of us who do our shopping online as it was to mothers ordering from catalogues in Quebec in the 1940s: keep your receipts. But is it time, too, that we recognized Carrier’s beloved tale of childhood and hockey for the searing indictment of youthful cruelty and small-town prejudice that it really is? From Puckstruck, page 40:
The Hockey Sweater? It’s true that as I’m reaching for Roch Carrier’s 1979 classic the thought does radiate through my mind that here is the game’s innocent exuberance distilled into a form of pure refreshment, no nasty additives or aftertaste. But have you re-read it lately? It’s a very disturbing story. I don’t just mean the mail-order tragedy that young Roch suffers as a young consumer — that’s the least of it. The bullying he undergoes is unprecedented in Canadian literature. It’s not just the kids, either: his own mother turns her back on him and the priest is a tyrant. Not even God can help poor Roch in his pariah’s Leaf-blue.