By Grady Semmens
It’s as much a part of growing up in Canada as playing shinny on the local pond. Reading Quebec author Roch Carrier’s classic story The Hockey Sweater (Le Chandail de Hockey) and watching the National Film Board’s animated version of the tale is a rite of passage for Canadian kids as they learn to read and write.
Now, the timeless story of Carrier’s own coming-of-age as a young Montreal Canadiens fan in rural Quebec in the 1940s is entering the computer age as an interactive CD-ROM designed by University of Calgary educational experts to make learning English and French more fun.
“The Hockey Sweater is the quintessential Canadian story by one of Canada’s leading writers. It’s even featured on the back of our five-dollar bill,” said Donna Mydlarski, a professor emerita in the Faculty of Continuing Education and an expert on computer-assisted learning. “We decided to try and take the story to the next level and make it a multi-media experience for today’s children who are so technology-savvy.”
Mydlarski and Faculty of Kinesiology professor Dr. Larry Katz spent the last three years working with a team of experts from across Canada to create the colourful, activity-based CD-ROM for children ages 11 and up. Their work was supported by the National Film Board, Canadian Heritage, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the University of Calgary Visual Resources Centre.
Using the animated film, images from an historical Eaton’s catalogue, hockey cards from dozens of top hockey players including Wayne Gretzky, Ken Dryden and Olympic gold-medallist Hayley Wickenheiser, traditional Canadian hockey songs and an original interview with Carrier, the CD explores Canada’s official languages and acquaints learners with various aspects of Canadian culture and identity.
The English version is designed to assist new Canadians enhance their knowledge of the English language and of Canada, while the French version is geared towards teaching French and Quebec culture to those who are learning French.
“We’ve taken it to some teachers’ conventions and had phenomenal response,” Mydlarski said. “I call them ‘the twins’ because they are similar products but for two very different audiences.”
Like most Quebec boys his age, Carrier was a big fan of the Montreal Canadiens and their legendary star Maurice “The Rocket” Richard. His 1979 short story recounts the time Carrier’s Canadiens sweater wears out and his mother orders a new one from Eaton’s. Unfortunately, a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater arrives by mistake and Carrier protests having to wear the jersey of the rival team.
Believing that returning the sweater would offend Mr. Eaton himself, Carrier’s mother forces him to wear the blue and white sweater on the ice, where he is humiliated by his friends.
“I’m glad to see my story being used by this team of most innovative teachers who are using technology to bring back excitement and fun in the classroom,” Carrier said.
Visit The Hockey Sweater /Le Chandail website: www.editions3d.ca/hockey.