December 22, 2007

The Hockey Sweater

Le Chandail de hockey. The Hockey Sweater.

Roch Carrier's most famous story is about a young boy who orders a Montreal Canadiens sweater from the Eaton's catalogue, but receives a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey instead. Brilliantly capturing the cultural tensions between English and French Canada, it is considered to be one of the most important works of Canadian literature ever written.

The book is based on the real experience of Carrier growing up in an isolated part of Quebec in the 1940s. He, like all boys his age, was a big fan of the Montreal Canadiens and their star player, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard.

When Carrier's Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater wears out, his mother orders a new one from Eaton's. Unfortunately, the department store giant sends a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater instead, the Canadiens' bitter arch rivals.

A loyal fan of Les Habitants, Carrier protests having to wear the new sweater. But his mother refuses to let her son wear the old worn out sweater and, apparently unaware of the business's traditional policy they advertised, "Goods satisfactory, or money refunded", insists that if they were to return the sweater it may offend Mr. Eaton, himself a Leafs fan. As a result, young Carrier is forced to wear the Leafs sweater to his hockey game, feeling humiliated before the other players on the ice, each proudly wearing Canadiens sweaters.

Getting your first hockey sweater is one of the truly great Christmas gifts one can receive. I'd love to hear your stories of Christmases past or present about giving or receiving a special hockey jersey.

By the way, the previous pic of a Habs jersey under a Christmas tree is part of Erle Schneidman's Montreal Canadiens Christmas card collection. The Habs have annually issued a Christmas card dating back to 1946, and he has many of them digitized on his website Registration is required to view his vast collection of Habs materials, but it is free and totally worth the 30 seconds of your time.

Here's a couple more pics from his collection:

And with that, I think the website will be shutting down for a few days break for Christmas. I wanted to thank everyone for helping to make this website something special. It is you the readers that truly make the site.

Merry Christmas everyone! I'll see you next week.


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