Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Sweater

"Every man's memory is his private literature."—Aldous Huxley

When writer Roch Carrier put pen to paper, capturing beloved memories of his 1940s hockey-centric childhood in a rural Quebec village, I wonder if he knew that he was developing a piece of Canadiana. Carrier's recollections indeed culminated into that classic 1979 short story called The Hockey Sweater. A year later, thanks to the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), the tale made the leap from the written word to an animator's cell. The short film dubbed The Sweater would immortalize Carrier's private memories, charming children the country over, for decades to come. His story was even quoted on the back of Canada’s five-dollar bill:

"The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places — the school, the church and the skating rink — but our life was on the skating rink."

Seated in front of the television set, I stumbled onto The Sweater one morning, as my mother clanked pots in the kitchen and my brother vroom-vroomed his toy car collection in the  bedroom. Amid the domestic noise, I entered into a trance-like state as I watched the feature. The Sweater had standout appeal: it documented those moments where peer pressure, growing pains and cultural tensions (the French/English divide) collided amid the backdrop of the nation's cherished pastime: hockey.

"In this animated short, Roch Carrier recounts the most mortifying moment of his childhood. At a time when all his friends worshiped Maurice "Rocket" Richard and wore his number 9 Canadiens hockey jersey, he was mistakenly sent a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey from Eaton's. Unable to convince his mother to send it back, he must face his friends wearing the colours of the opposing team. This short film, based on the book The Hockey Sweater, is an NFB classic that appeals to hockey lovers of all ages." (via NFB)

I always enjoyed a good NFB vignette: storytelling was their forte but this tale, told by a real life protagonist was exceptional. I could hardly wait to yell, "You gotta see this" to my brother. Whenever it aired, we sat mesmerized, regardless of how many times we saw it.

It never mattered that The Sweater was in honour of our rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. The beauty of the tale was that even a die hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan could both appreciate its charm and the pathos it inspired. After all, the slings and arrows of childhood are universal.

Watch it below or via this link


  1. That was really neat! :)

  2. So happy you like it! The colours, the music and the narration all make the story so much more memorable. :)


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