May 2, 2014

Review: The Hockey Sweater (1980)

If you want to understand the fandom behind the Montreal Canadiens in Quebec, this is the short film to see. It's based off a short story written by Roch Carrier, a French-Canadian author who wrote Une abominable feuille d'érable sur la glace that was made into an animated short film a year later as well. The story of THS comes from his real life experiences as a boy in 1946. What's a really nice bonus is the involvement of Roch Carrier in the film as the narrator.

Not only does The Hockey Sweater illustrate the fandom behind the Canadiens, but also it attempts to explain the tensions that exist between English and French Canada. Through hockey of course. It's simplicity in addressing this issue is simply brilliant if you ask me. I'm not here to argue one side over the other though, this is only a film blog after all.


Genre: animation, short, biography
Directed by: Sheldon Cohen
Produced by: Marrin Canell, David Verrall, Derek Lamb
Written by: Roch Carrier, Sheila Fischman
Music by: Normand Roger
Running time: 10 minutes
Production company: National Film Board of Canada
Distributed by: National Film Board of Canada, Intégral Vidéo, Imavision Distribution
Country: Canada
Language: French, English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Roch Carrier, Jean-Guy Moreau



The Hockey Sweater is about a boy who lives in Saint-Justine, Quebec. He is completely obsessed with the Canadiens player, Maurice Richard who wears the number 9. He's far from the only one who's Richard-crazy since every other boy his age is as well. There is no player as good as he is and there may as well not be a single other player in existence.


As you can see from this summary, the addiction to hockey that Canadians in general experience is pretty well exemplified in The Hockey Sweater. This following quote from this short film actually appeared on the Canadian five dollar bill for a while:
"We lived in three places - the school, the church and the skating rink - but our real life was on the skating rink."
That's some pretty extreme stuff eh? It's a shame that this quote stopped being used on the bills in 2013.

Roch Carrier's narration is simply perfect for delivering humour and building the whimsical tone of this short. No person could have done a better job because this is his life. His involvement is a huge reason why this movie is able to hit so hard. The animation is simple, but beautifully done and adds a certain magical quality to the whole production.

The Hockey Sweater is pretty much like walking down the street and finding $50 on the sidewalk. It's not expected and I don't believe Roch Carrier or the National Film Board of Canada expected to create something that would become part of the very fabric of Quebec and Canadian culture. I'm probably a big homer for claiming that The Hockey Sweater is practically perfect, but that's just how it is. I'm a Habs fan myself and this story is just icing on the cake for me. Every fan is looking for justification of why they're a fan and The Hockey Sweater is a great reason to be a Canadiens fan.



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