The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories

Contemporary This edition printed in:

A tabby cat sits beside a book. The cover of the book has a black border with a yellow pinstripe around a drawing of a blue and white hockey sweater.

It’s That Time of Year Again!

So finally it’s late April and that means the start of the playoff season! Hockey is something that I only truly appreciated in adulthood. I began by watching it every time the winter Olympics rolled around, and then I expanded into watching the IIHF and women’s hockey. Last year was the first time I watched the NHL playoffs and this year was my first time following the entire season.

It’s been a learning experience and, while I’m not anywhere near a hardcore sports fan, I have enjoyed getting to know this aspect of the Canadian cultural landscape. So don’t ask me about stats, but please feel free to show me vintage films like Face-Off featuring the 1971 Maple Leafs as a supporting cast.

A cat stares off into the distance, with one paw resting on a book.

Rural Life Long Ago

To celebrate the playoffs, I’ve decided to review Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories. If you haven’t heard of The Hockey Sweater and the delightful children’s book that it spawned, then you must be very unfamiliar with Canadian culture, not just specifically hockey culture. It’s the story of a boy whose mother gets him the wrong sweater to play hockey and his burning desire for moths to rain down from the heavens and consume that sweater before he endures any further ostracization from his Maurice-Richard-loving peers.

A cat lies beside a book with one of her ears flicked backwards. The book on the floor beside her is The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories.

However, to limit this collection by just focusing on The Hockey Sweater would do it a disservice. Carrier uses multiple stories to capture the essence of rural Quebec and the lifecycle of a village that is chafing against the dawn of the modern age and its many connections to city life and a mentality that stretches beyond the borders of a small town. Carrier provides us with a snapshot of a place and time that is receding further and further into the distance as the last generation to remember a time before the internet grows older and loses their parents and grandparents.

I found The Month of the Dead a particularly poignant story in this regard. The story is about rituals surrounding the dead that are particular to a small village in rural Quebec.

A book sits beside a cat. It is Roch Carrier's The Hockey Sweater.

Writing Childhood

Many, many books have been written about childhood and about coming of age. In a novel, this evolution demands an intricate combination of watershed moments interspersed in a smooth narrative progression. In a short story collection, the writer instead has the freedom to write in scenes and vignettes and can focus on the choppy, inconsistent reality of both memory and growth. That’s what Carrier has done with this cycle of stories.

A calico tabby looks out a window. Beside her is a book with a hockey sweater drawing on the cover.

The reader follows the growth of one child through various scenes in his life, but these scenes are not connected smoothly. They are not neat and tidy. They read like an older man looking back on the past and interpreting it through fresh experiences, but at the same time they also read like a child that knows when a moment is important but not why or how it will fit into the adult they will one day become. That seems like a simple, natural pair of tones, but actually they are very subtly opposing. Uniting them into one collection, let alone one piece, is a very impressive feat of very intricate writing.

Roch Carrier's The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories has a cover with a drawing of a blue and white Maple Leafs sweater pinned to a clothesline.


The Hockey Sweater is a story that means many things to many people. Beyond the surface narrative of a kid and a hockey sweater, it is a tale about conformity, culture clashes, coming-of-age, family conflicts, and class considerations. That’s partially why it’s become so much a part of Canadian culture, because there is something new to study and look at every time you read it. I have no doubt it will withstand the test of time.

The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories is published by Anansi in their A-List series. It features an introduction by Dave Bidini.

But, that being said, the rest of Carrier’s work isn’t as well-known and has been overshadowed by this one (very special) story. Carrier’s case is illustrative of why I seek out more than just a writer’s most famous work. Because George Eliot is more than Middlemarch and Alice Munro is more than Away From Her. Read more than just what’s on everyone else’s list or the bestsellers shelf. If you like a writer, seek out more from them, pursue more knowledge. You’ll never be sorry.

A calico tabby looks out a window. Beside her is Roch Carrier's The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories.

Also Theatre

The other thing that starts in late April? The theatre season. We bought our tickets long ago, and because of that I’m finding the first few plays a bit chaotically placed in the middle of a schedule I made before I realized that those performances were on the calendar.

Is it weird that I enjoy the juxtaposition of coming home from seeing a Shakespeare play and turning on the hockey game?

A tabby cat with big ears sits behind a book.

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