The Hockey Sweater

The Hockey SweaterA good friend of mine shares a story from his youth that revolves around a hockey sweater and results in a great deal of trauma. During the 1940s in Eastern Ontario, a young boy receives a hockey sweater sporting the logo of the Toronto Maple Leafs. With money extremely tight, this is an awesome gift. A white jersey with that blue maple leaf crest, a symbol every Ontario boy in the 1940s aspires to wear. What happens next eternally scarred my friend and still torments him to this day.

During the first wash of his new Maple Leafs sweater, the blue colour of the maple leaf ran. The white became awash in blue as it bled down. My friend's heart bled in unity. At that precise moment, the innocence of youth was lost and his worship of the blue and white dissolved. Throughout the following sixty year it became physically impossible for my friend to have more than a passing interest in the Maple Leafs franchise, despite living down the street from Maple Leaf Gardens during those Stanley Cup season in the 1960s. One bad sweater with a colour that ran changed the course of this young man's sporting future.

I'm fascinated with this story and it always reminds me of "The Sweater", the National Film Board of Canada's animated short based on Roch Carrier's short story "The Hockey Sweater". It's late-1940s in rural Quebec and a mother sends away to Eaton's for a Canadiens hockey sweater for her Maurice Richard-idolizing son. To the boy's horror, he receives the hated blue and white jersey of the arch-rival Toronto Maple Leafs instead. Problems on the ice ensue, and only a desperate plea to God himself can remedy the situation. You can hear Roch Carrier reading his story in the CBC Archives.

Had that sweater not have ran that day would my friend be a die hard supporter of the Toronto Maple Leafs today? I'm sure of it. The devil doesn't live in Toronto, as Carrier suggests. The devil is in the dye.


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