Friday, November 04, 2005

DEMER’S SHAME OF ILLITERACY

In this jet age even coaching in the NHL involves more reading and complacency. But it is a matter to wonder how Jacques Demers would cope if he were still behind the Montreal Canadiens bench. Jacques Demer has been coaching from the last 15 years in the NHL without knowing how to read or write. Also known as the king of forgetting his glasses, Demer’s has put off his lame excuse of forgetting his spectacles. There's no doubt, if Jacques was coaching today he would have said 'To heck with computers, I'm going to go upstairs and we're going to talk. During his 15-year career as the most popular hockey personalities in Quebec and one of the most ostentatious coaches, Demer would pat his clothes and shrug his shoulders whenever someone asked him to read a document or article or fill out an NHL lineup card or sign an autograph. He coached the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup in 1993, all while keeping his illiteracy a top secret.

Demer belonged to an abusive working-class family from Montreal, and dropped out of school in the eighth grade and since then never learned to read or write. He hid his incapability to read or write and childhood derogation beneath his endless reservoir of enthusiasm and raw emotion. When the Canadiens hired him, Demer created a small family of mentor and disciples and always remained up and upbeat always trying to turn a bad situation into a good situation. Demer’s revelation of this devastating secret for the first time has sent shockwaves through the tightly knit community of the hockey world. He never revealed this secret because he was insecure that the truth would take its toll. Would his first pro GM, Maurice Filion, have hired Demers to coach the Quebec Nordiques if he knew the fact that Demers couldn't read or write? That was the story when he was just a beginner and even after the culmination of his career he built enough strategies and safeguards to coach 1,007 NHL games, ranking 10th all-time, without divulging his secret even to his kids. Demers in true terms learned the game by sight and taught with words and motivation. To know more about his plight, his book, "Jacques Demers: En Toutes Lettres" currently available only in French with an English edition is the best source.

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