Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater (Le chandail de hockey) was published in 1979. Nearly 45 years later the beloved story is still touching hearts of all ages.
It is the story of a young boy who idolizes Maurice “The Rocket” Richard. He orders a number-9 Habs jersey from an Eaton’s catalogue… and receives a Maple Leafs jersey instead.
The celebrated author, now 85 years old, took time out to read to Grade 2 schoolchildren at Sherbrooke Academy Junior in Beaconsfield. Students and teachers alike were sporting Habs’ jerseys with players’ names on the back – Caulfied, Price, Kovalev, Camaleri, and even Roy. There was one boy in a San Jose Sharks jersey, but no one seemed to mind.
The story was born of a time when young men had just returned from war, traded in their weapons for hockey sticks, and the battlefield for the ice rink in his hometown of Sainte-Justine, Quebec. “They came back to the village after being trained to become men and become warriors. And when they came back to the village – it was a small village with nothing to do except the church and the patinoire.”
Teacher Jacqueline Dunsmore, wearing Richard’s number-9 Jersey, remembers a similar experience growing up in Beaconsfield, just down the street from the school where she now teaches, either watching hockey on Saturday nights, or her brothers playing hockey at the local rink, and on Sundays going to church. So the story resonates with her as it does with her students. “I’ve taught Grade 1 all the way to Grade 6, and I’ve used it every year. Without a doubt these kids just connect to it.”
As for Carrier himself, he told the kids “that was the start of my hockey playing, and I was the worst hockey player in the history of the sport.”
After the reading he took time to answer the children’s questions: Is it a true story? Why did you decide to become a teller of tales? How does one become a writer?
Carrier says he never gets tired of doing readings of The Hockey Sweater. And while reactions to the story have changed over the years, clearly this one story has meant as much to its author as it has to readers. “It’s always a gift,” Carrier tells The Suburban. “So many things happened around this little book. It was translated in different languages, and published in countries where they didn’t know about hockey. And that’s amazing.”
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