Opinion: Scotiabank sends a powerful message about inclusion publishing The Hockey Jersey

Friends play a game of pick-up hockey against a mountain backdrop on Lake Louise, Alta, on February 2 in warm weather.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

Roch Carrier is right: real battles are won on the ice rink.

His beloved short story The hockey sweater, serves as a springboard for a new book about another young woman who fears she doesn’t fit in with her teammates. But in this story, a brand new hockey jersey serves as a symbol of unity rather than division.

Written by Jael Richardson and published by the Bank of Nova Scotia BNS-T, The hockey jersey tells the story of a girl named Kareema who initially feels out of place in the dressing room. But when their coach arrives with new uniforms, it inspires camaraderie among a quintessentially Canadian cast of characters.

The children’s story is part of Scotiabank’s broader initiative to make the national sport more inclusive and accessible, including for women, new immigrants and people of color. Its release certainly coincides with a critical moment for Canada’s game.

Hockey Canada, the sport’s national governing body, is working to rebuild its credibility after it was rocked by sexual assault scandals, which led to a national reckoning of abuse in sport and exclusion on the ice.

When Scotiabank ended its sponsorship of Hockey Canada in June 2022, its chief executive officer, Brian Porter, publicly promised that the lender would do its part to bring about “positive change” in the sport.

Nobody suggests The hockey jersey is a kind of panacea for what the game lacks. But it’s a move by a key corporate sponsor, who has been involved in hockey since the 1970s, to break down cultural barriers in the sport.

Scotiabank, which has long called itself “Canada’s hockey bank,” deserves credit for recognizing the mood of the nation and reallocating its marketing dollars accordingly.

It’s the same kind of sponsorship sophistication Wendy’s Canada showed when it gave its mascot gray hair to show support for host Lisa LaFlamme after she was ousted from the anchor’s chair at CTV News.

For its part, Scotiabank also addresses an important gap in children’s literature in a hockey-obsessed country. The bank developed the concept for this The hockey jersey after noting that just over 1 percent of children’s books about ice hockey feature a child of color.

With the changing face of Canadian society, is it any wonder that small-time hockey is facing a enrollment crisis? After all, ice hockey has no future if our national sport only appeals to guys who look like Maurice Richard.

“We just figured if a kid can’t see themselves on the pages, how is they supposed to see it’s in the game?” said Laura Curtis Ferrera, Scotiabank’s chief marketing officer.

Although the title of the book is inspired The hockey sweaterit is not a restatement of this classic story based on Mr. Carrier’s childhood experiences in Sainte-Justine, Que.

(For those of you unfamiliar with his story, a young Mr. Carrier is horrified when Eaton’s department store accidentally sends him a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater instead of one featuring the logo of his beloved Montreal Canadiens. Wearing it makes him feel like an outsider on the ice and prays moths will devour his sweater. It’s certainly a heartwarming yarn. But it’s also widely regarded as a parable of the cultural divide between French and English Canada.)

“That’s a really nice nod to our past,” said Ms. Curtis Ferrera. “We wanted to take creative inspiration from a classic children’s hockey book, but we wanted to The hockey jersey to be a book all its own.”

It certainly is.

Ms. Richardson, the book’s author, says her story focuses on the dressing room, in part because of the cover illustration of Mr. Carrier’s story. The hustle and bustle of a dressing room is familiar to parents, coaches and players alike.

“It’s the magic of a jersey and the way you feel like you’re part of a team when you put on a jersey,” said Ms. Richardson.

“For me and [illustrator Chelsea Charles]as black girls we really just wanted to create a character that we hadn’t seen in picture books growing up.”

The hockey jersey can be purchased from Indigo, but is also available as a free e-book on the bank’s website. Net proceeds from sales will be donated to the Hockey 4 Youth Foundation. The bank also plans to donate thousands of copies to public libraries and school boards.

Ms Richardson said the book was a timely reminder of all the changes that have yet to take place to create a fair game on the ice.

“Women’s sport is a really great place to find out how to do things because it’s a group of people – from the coach to the administration to everyone involved – who understand that they’re up against the odds and who do it anyway. And that’s a great model to follow.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *