The Hockey Sweater - Thao Lam
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The Hockey Sweater

The Hockey Sweater

The Hockey Sweater

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He shoots, he scores!!!

Like millions of other Canadians this past Sunday, I was glued to my television set, watching the gold medal game between Canada and United States in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. One game. One chance. One winner. It was intense, with the U.S. tying up the game 30 seconds before the end of the third period after Canada had held the lead most of the game. 30 seconds?! 30 seconds?! – beaver dam! The U.S. team wasn’t going down without a fight, so it came down to which of us wanted it more. As it turns out, we did. Keep reading…

It’s pretty much fact that one or two things come to mind when others think of Canada, and hockey is one of those things (snow is probably the other). Our passion for it is hardly a secret. But, I am not exaggerating when I say that on February 28th, this game brought the nation together in a way that nothing else ever could. It was amazing to watch as the television networks cut to gatherings throughout different parts of the country, where crowds of people cheered on their hometown boys together, decked out in their red and white jerseys and waving their Canadian flags. I saw a nation holding its collective breath, frozen until Sidney Crosby scored that winning goal. Finally, a deep sigh of relief, and then an explosion of exuberance as the nation went wild.

The Hockey Sweater, written by Roch Carrier and illustrated by Sheldon Cohen, is a Canadian classic that captures the spirit of Canadians’ love for hockey. Carrier writes about the long winter seasons of his childhood in the 1940s and growing up in the village of Sainte Justine, Quebec, where life was centered around “the school, the church and the skating rink.” For little Roch and his friends, hockey was a religion and Maurice (Rocket) Richard of the Montreal Canadiens was a god. Every boy wore a sweater like the Canadiens’ unmistakable red, white and blue jersey, and on the backs of every one was Richard’s number “9”. They all combed their hair like their hero, laced their skates like their hero and taped their sticks just like their hero.

When Roch outgrows his beloved Canadiens sweater, his mother writes away for a new one. Unfortunately, when the package arrives in the mail, Roch is horrified to find a blue and white Maple Leafs sweater instead. The Leafs are the long-time rivals and hated enemy of his favourite team, and Roch faces certain humiliation among his friends should he dare wear this sweater in public.

The art reminds me of folk art and the style seems fitting to capture the many scenes of Canadian life in the 1940s. Cohen packs each scene with details that are part of Canadian history and culture, like the royal seal outside the post office and the Eatons catalogue (Eatons was one of Canada’s oldest department stores). Cohen is able to capture the mood of each scene by using simple but exaggerated expressions and body postures.

The Hockey Sweater, a children’s book review by Thao Lam

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Author Roch Carrier

Roch Carrier was born on May 13th, 1937, in Sainte Justine, Quebec. He has worn many hats over the years: storyteller, poet, novelist, playwright, essayist and teacher. He studied at the St. Louis Collage in New Brunswick, the University of Montreal in Quebec and the Sorbonne in Paris, where he received a doctorate in literature. He was the former director of the Canada Council for the Arts and a former National Librarian of Canada. Under his guidance, the National Library of Canada created the Digital Library of Canada, an online database that contained digitized Canadian books, which can now be access by any Canadian no matter where they are located.

To read more on Roch Carrier, please visit his website:

Illustrator Sheldon Cohen

Sheldon Cohen was born in Montreal in 1949. He received his bachelor of science from McGill University and then attended Sheridan College for illustration. He has had a remarkable career as an animator, film director, illustrator and a painter. In 1980, Cohen made an animated film of the hockey sweater story for the National Film Board of Canada. The Sweater won the British Academy Award for Best Animated Film, as well as 15 other international film honors. He was also awarded the Governor General’s Award for Children’s illustration in 1991. Interested in helping the development of film ideas, Cohen taught students at Concordia University and Harvard University.

I am always tickled pink when an author or an illustrator, takes time out of their busy schedule to reply to a fan mail.

“Most readers familiar with THE HOCKEY SWEATER don’t realize that its life as a children’s book was in fact its third ‘incarnation’. Roch Carrier originally wrote this classic hockey tale as an assignment for a CBC radio presentation. The National Film Board of Canada subsequently produced it as an animated film which I directed from 1978-80 (yes, it took 2 years to make this 10-minute animated short!) and only then did it eventually become a picturebook, published by Tundra Books in 1984. And so my entry into the world of illustration has been an indirect one. However, once inside, I didn’t want to leave and continued to illustrate 3 sequels to THE HOCKEY SWEATER, each one of them based on another Roch Carrier sports story (THE BOXING CHAMPION, THE LONGEST HOME RUN, and THE BASKETBALL PLAYER). What began as a little Quebec story over 30 years ago has travelled from radio to film to picturebooks, all across Canada and beyond. In fact, someone recently told me that while travelling in Kenya, she happened to pass a little bookstore along one of the sidestreets, and to her amazement, in the display window reflecting the hot African sun, sat a copy of THE HOCKEY SWEATER!”

– Sheldon Cohen –

To read more on Sheldon Cohen, please visit his website

Sheldon Cohen’s animated film, The Sweater can be viewed on the National Film Board (NFB) site

Publisher Tundra (Sept 1st 1985)

ISBN-10 0887761747

ISBN-13 9780887761744