Carrying on from Myles Harris’ series on hockey movies, Adam Verran has taken on the arduous task of filling in “Lockout Time” by watching a few of the hockey films you might not have seen.
Ask any hockey fan to imagine the ultimate humiliation involving a hockey jersey, and the answer will generally revolve around wearing a rival team’s sweater (Jersey Fouls notwithstanding). Countries have placed wagers on this sort of thing. Try asking any Canucks fan if they would be caught dead in private, let alone in public, wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey.
Canadian writer Roch Carrier doesn’t need to use his imagination. A fan of the Montreal Canadiens, and of Maurice “The Rocket” Richard in particular, Carrier suffered such humiliation as a child: Carrier’s mother forced him to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater after a mistake by department store Eaton’s leaves Carrier without the sweater he wanted, Richard’s number 9.
Amidst a background of Quebec’s push for sovereignty, Carrier wrote “The Sweater” after being asked by CBC Radio to explain why Quebec wanted to separate itself from the rest of Canada. Stuck for ideas on how best to express this, Carrier wrote a story that both explained the tensions between anglophone and francophone Canadians and the wonderful things that unite them as one people.
Turning the childhood experience into a short story, and subsequently an animated short film, Carrier’s “The Sweater” (“Le Chandail” in French) has deeply touched the rest of Canada. How deeply? Lines from Carrier’s story feature on Canada’s five dollar note.
The film (and the story upon which it is based) certainly illustrate the tensions between Quebec and the rest of English-speaking Canada. Carrier’s mother is a prime example of this. The lack of a French language order form in the Eaton’s catalogue clearly intimidates her and appears to make her feel inferior. When the dreaded Maple Leafs sweater arrives in the mail, she is so afraid of the repercussions that a complaint to Eaton’s might cause that she would rather subject her son to doubtless ridicule. The priest’s admonition of Carrier is another allusion to Quebec’s resistance against the rule of English-speaking Canada.
At its core, “The Sweater” is a story about Canada’s love of hockey, a child’s hero worship of their favourite player, and fervent support for their favourite team. And that’s something to which we can all relate.
The National Film Board have posted “The Sweater” in its entirety on Youtube. If you love hockey, and have a spare ten minutes, give it a watch. You’ll be glad you did.
Those who would like to watch the French language version of “The Sweater” (I know I did) can do so on the National Film Board’s website.