This week, I’ll give a few thoughts about Christmas in Canada. Today it’s Roch Carrier’s fabulous story “The Hockey Sweater” (“Le chandail de hockey”). The story was published in French in 1979 as “Une abominable feuille d’érable sur la glace” (An Abominable Maple Leaf on Ice).
Let me give some background to the story. The story is set, presumably, in Carrier’s childhood. At that time there were only two NHL teams in Canada. The Montréal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canadiens had a monopoly on the best francophone players from Québec. Their sweaters were Liberal Red. And they were the greatest team in hockey. The Maple Leafs were essentially an anglophone team, wearing Tory blue. The formula was simple: the French Liberals cheered for Montréal; the English Conservatives cheered for Toronto. And Montréal won. Repeatedly.
More deeply, the story was published just three years after the first separatist government was elected in Québec, and one year before the first referendum on sovereignty. It was a time for Québec francophones to reflect on past injustices and their implications for the future.
On one hand, the story is nationalistic. On the other, it is a gentle and funny story about childhood, dreams and inclusion.
Here is a lovely short animated feature by the National Film Board of Canada. The Sweater.