The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier is a classic and beloved piece of Canadian children’s literature. The book tells the tale of a young boy who idolizes Maurice “The Rocket” Richard and his Montreal Canadiens, and who faces extreme embarrassment and social discomfort when his mother accidentally orders him a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater instead of the ubiquitous bleu, blanc et rouge worn by all of his friends.
The Hockey Sweater was published in French 1979, and translated into English shortly thereafter. In 1980, the National Film Board of Canada produced an animated short film, Le Chandaille/The Sweater, based upon the book. Both the book and the film are considered by many to be important Canadian cultural artifacts. The Canadian Museum of Civilization even offers an examination of the book’s cultural context on its website.
In an interesting merging of literature, music and sport, in May the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will be presenting a performance of The Hockey Sweater, narrated by Carrier and introduced by Ken Dryden.
From the TSO’s website:
Now, for the first time, “The Hockey Sweater” is being interpreted by a symphony orchestra by Dora award-winning composer Abigail Richardson. The world première of Richardson’s The Hockey Sweater will be hosted by famed Montréal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden and narrated by no other than the author himself, Roch Carrier.
Part of an all-Canadian programme, the concert also includes André Jutras’ Suite folklorique, John Estacio’s Borealis and Dolores Clayman’s Hockey Night in Canada. . . .
The commission of “The Hockey Sweater” is in celebration of the TSO presenting programs for young people for 90 years through its distinguished education and outreach initiatives. The Young People’s Concerts are created especially for children ages 5-12 and are the perfect introduction to symphonic music, offering an enhanced music education outside of school hours.
This is definitely an interesting project, given the cultural resonance of The Hockey Sweater. The book has already been successfully adapted to film. Can the TSO similarly bring the story to life through music? And, at a broader level, does the story still resonate with a generation of Canadians for whom outdoor pond hockey is more myth than reality, for whom the significance of centuries of contentious French-English relations in Canada may not be understood, and for whom the historical significance of the Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry is unknown?
Whatever the answers to these questions, this is certainly a fascinating cultural project for hockey fans and students of Canadian culture alike.