Roch Carrier’s “Le chandail de hockey” / “The hockey sweater”: Canada’s Ol’ Time Religion


Religious fanaticism is rare in Canada, except for our devotion to the ice-hot God of Hockey – most especially for boys (and even girls) who grew up in Ontario and Québec.  Fans of NHL games have soured on the sport as a “professional” manifestation, what with a decade of crassly-deliberate violence on the ice, not to mention the current “lock-out” making 2012-2013 a lost season.  But the game itself, played by amateurs lucky enough to be skating on an outdoor rink, perhaps even under a starry sky, remains crisp, clear, good fun.

It’s Christmas Day…so we present to our readers the first page of Roch Carrier’s classic 1979 children’s story, The Hockey Sweater, here translated from French into English by Sheila Fischman:

The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons.  We lived in three places – the school, the church, and the skating-rink – but our real life was on the skating-rink.  Real battles were won on the rink, real strength appeared on the rink.  The real leaders showed themselves on the skating-rink.


School was a sort of punishment.  Parents always want to punish their children and school is their most natural way of punishing us.  However, school was also a quiet place where we could prepare for the next hockey game, lay out our next strategies.


As for church, we found there the tranquility of God:  there we forgot school and dreamed about the next hockey game.  Through our daydreams it might happen that we would recite a prayer:  we would ask God to help us play as well as Maurice Richard *…

ZP_Zócalo Poets’ editor laces up for a go-round the rink...

ZP_Zócalo Poets’ editor laces up for a go-round the rink…

Carrier’s first page in its original French:

Les hivers de mon enfance étaient des saisons longues, longues. Nous vivions en trois lieux :  l’école, l’église et la patinoire : mais la vraie vie était sur la patinoire. Les vrais combats se gagnaient sur la patinoire.  La vraie force apparaissait sur la patinoire. Les vrais chefs se manifestaient sur la patinoire.


L’école était une sorte de punition.  Les parents ont toujours envie de punir les enfants et l’école était leur façon la plus naturelle de nous punir. De plus, l’école était un endroit tranquille où l’on pouvait préparer les prochaines parties de hockey, dessiner les prochaines stratégies.


Quant à l’église, nous trouvions là le repos de Dieu : on y oubliait l’école et l’on rêvait à la prochaine partie de hockey. A travers nos rêveries, il nous arrivait de réciter une prière : c’était pour demander à Dieu de nous aider à jouer aussi bien que Maurice Richard…

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* Maurice ‘ The Rocket ‘ Richard (born Montréal, Québec, 1921-2000) was one of the early stars of professional hockey, playing for the Montréal Canadiens (The Habs) between 1942 and 1960.  He was the first to score fifty goals in fifty games, and did so during the 1944-45 NHL season.

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