the hockey sweater: buyer beware

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.


think of Gordie Howe®

howe storyGordie Howe is writing a book, unless he’s already written it — either way, Penguin Canada will be publishing it, in October, under the Viking imprint. The book will appear in the U.S. under another Penguin banner, G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

The announcement came on Monday. That, as Penguin’s press release noted, was Power’s 86th birthday. That’s one of Howe’s many nicknames, Power, though the release doesn’t mention it, and it isn’t the one that will serve as the book’s title, which is Mr. Hockey. Andrew Podnieks’ indispensable catalogue of hockey biography, Players (2003), lists along with Elbows and Mr. Hockey. lengthens the list with The Great Gordie, Mr. Elbows, The King of Hockey, and Number 9. Mr. Hockey is there, too, if only ever in an armoured form that I’m certain makes good solid anti-infringement sense while never failing to annoy the eye and the patience:

His name has been synonymous with the sport since the mid 1940’s. Literally, when fans think of hockey, they think of Gordie Howe®. To millions of fans around the globe, #9 is revered as “Mr. Hockey®”.

As a book, the unadorned Mr. Hockey will be (says Penguin) “the definitive account of the game’s most incredible legacy.” “Big, skilled, mean on the ice, and nearly indestructible” was Howe, but don’t worry, it’s not going to be as intimidating as all that: Penguin associate publisher Nick Garrison promises that the book will deliver an abundance of Howe class, generosity, and rock-solid personal integrity, too.

Number 9 is embracing the project, we learn:

“I got to do something I loved for more than my fair share of years. But no accomplishment is about just one person – no championship, no statistic, and certainly not a whole career. It’s a pleasure to tell my story with this book, and especially to include the people who have meant so much to me along the way.”

For a moment there I wondered whether Howe was going to introduce his writing partner/ghost/editorial consultant but, no, wrong. Which is not unusual. Bobby Orr was Penguin’s last big autobiographer, in the fall, and no-one on the project was copping to who was co-writing ahead of publication, when Vern Stenlund finally revealed himself between hard covers.

Guesses? Elmer Ferguson Awardwinner Jay Greenberg assisted on Mark Howe’s 2013 memoir, the straightforwardly titled Gordie Howe’s Son would have to come first. Kevin Allen from USA Today helped on Mr. & Mrs. Hockey® (2004), a ponderous oral history, privately published. Or what about Tom Delisle? He’s a former Detroit Free Press reporter who joined Howe and his late wife, Colleen, to write an “authorized autobiography” (another private project in need of a cold-eyed editor) called and … Howe! (1995). Continue reading