Rabid Habs

The Hockey Sweater

The Hockey Sweater

The pause in the NHL season has not only afforded the players an opportunity to refresh in preparation for the playoff drive, but allows the fans a chance to catch up on those necessities that keep life moving forward. In a moment of reflection earlier this week, I realized that although the game isn’t being played, hockey continues to reside in our household. In fact, hockey is not even a seasonal interest. The thread that ties my family to the glorious game and more specifically, to the Montreal Canadiens isn’t a stick, skates or found during a hockey broadcast. It’s in the form of a book; our special interest that’s shared each and every night before bedtime – Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater.

As an Anglophone growing up in a small farming community in rural Ontario I’m often asked what kindled my interest in the Montreal Canadiens. Although several factors exist, none fuelled a passion in either my brother or myself the way the Hockey Sweater did. Each night, after being readied for bed, my mother would read aloud the story of a young man’s fight to bridge practicality with social acceptance. The emergence of the legendary Rocket Richard, a disdain for the Maple Leafs and the connection of Church and Hockey followed. In fact, it was the Hockey Sweater that laid the foundation for what would become a life long association with the most storied franchise in hockey.

As I grew older, my interest expanded along with my desire to acquire more information. My parents fed this appetite with a steady flow of books on birthdays and at Christmas. Inside each cover, neatly printed, was the date, the occasion and a small note. Before the Internet helped to refine searches, books were my best friends and I laid awake for hours learning about the franchise and players who adorned the famous red, white and blue sweater. As a boy of 13 years, I knew the names, numbers, positions and stories of players who I had never seen play. The Forum might as well have been the Citadel in both reverence and sheer magnitude. Although hockey cards would decrease my reliance on hockey books as a primary reference material, I still continued to read and build an appreciation, respect and subsequently a fanaticism with the HABS.

My mother was significantly invested in our community and helped to organize the Sunday school for local children. One year, when I was probably 8 years of age, a pen pal program was launched. The children would exchange letters with elders within the community beginning in October, with the reveal scheduled for Easter Sunday. While friends chose names like Bugs Bunny or Inspector Gadget to serve as their covert handle, I became Maurice Richard. Each week I would prepare my letter, careful to include information from school, but primarily the subject was hockey. Each letter was written and signed Maurice Richard. Finally, when the reveal date arrived, I was allowed to wear my Montreal Canadiens jersey, a wonderful reprieve from the customary shirt and tie that my father would struggle to dress me in. My pen pal turned out to be an elderly lady, who thereafter would always ask my grandmother how Maurice was doing.

My little story is but one in what I estimate is thousands, perhaps even millions of lives that have been touched by this wonderful book. Now, as a parent of two young boys, I look forward to our time together each night as we settle down and read OUR book. And, therein lies the truth upon which the interest with this book originates; the connection it forges within families, friends and, as illustrated above, communities. In fact, while others are in the habit of gifting clothing or accessories as presents for expecting parents, we give the gift of The Hockey Sweater. So far as we are concerned, there is no greater instrument to help serve multiple interests, primarily the enjoyment of books.

It is with great pride and passion that I call special attention to The Hockey Sweater. It has greatly influenced my past, present and will continue to shape our future. In a world in which things move infinitely faster than ever before, it’s nice to hold a resource that allows us to pause each day, if only for 15 minutes, as we connect and, in my case, reflect upon our youth. So, in closing, thank you Mr. Carriere for providing such a timeless resource, The Hockey Sweater.

The Hockey Sweater










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One Comment

  1. Andre Leclerc

    January 26, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Got the book, French edition, today and looking forward to reading this to my 6-year old this evening. Can’t believe I never read this as a kid… Great story John!