Finding an NHL jersey craze in West Africa reminds us of that scene from "Tropic Thunder," in which Ben Stiller discovers a remote village worships his character's box office bomb "Simple Jack" because it's one of the only VHS tapes it owns. Necessity can facilitate some strange cultural mash-ups.
National Post writer Bonnie Allen found Liberians wearing Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks and other NHL jerseys being bought, sold and worn by the citizenry. Before you start worrying that Gary Bettman is going to expand to really warm-weather climates, know this: These are fans of durable fabric, not puck.
"We don't know the game," Joe Peters admits, wiping sweat off his cheek. "But the jerseys are very fine. Very high quality."
The booming and controversial used-clothes business in Africa means hockey jerseys can be found sprinkled throughout this war-torn West African nation. Bizarrely, the authentic hockey jersey has become a status symbol among the poor for its "premium-grade" rating and high price tag ($4 CDN).
"It is tough, tough material," street vendor Evelyn Togbah raves. "If you buy it, you can wear it for 20 years."
Allen writes that the jerseys are donated by churches and charities in North America, and that "the popularity is a bit surprising, given the widespread belief by many Africans that these used clothes have been stripped from the body of a dead person." Whoa.
If you do nothing else today, please check out the Post's gallery of Liberians in NHL sweaters, as Allen attempted to find all 30 teams. No word if the village enforcers all wear Philadelphia Flyers jerseys, or if feuding communities are naturally drawn to Flames and Oilers jerseys.
Clearly, this West African nation is on the cusp of NHL fandom. You know, once they work past the whole "no national electricity grid and televisions are for the rich" thing.
Thanks to reader Adam P. for the tip yesterday.