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Thread: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

  1. #1
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Sounds like he was abused as a child too.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=2212397

    Former NHL coach Demers admits he's illiterate

    Associated Press

    MONTREAL -- Jacques Demers, who coached the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1993 and was later a general manager in the NHL, admits in a newly released biography that he is illiterate.

    "I could read a little bit but I can't write very well," Demers said at a party for the book's launch. "I took to protecting myself. You put a wall around yourself. And when I was given the possibility of talking, I could speak well and I think that really saved me."

    In the book "Jacques Demers: En Toutes Lettres," which roughly translates to "All Spelled Out," Demers said his inability to read and write was the result of an abusive and impoverished childhood.

    "All I wanted from my father was to treat me with love," Demers said. "Not to beat me up when I did something wrong. Not to beat up my mom. It really hurt me because he took away my childhood.

    "The other thing I wanted to say was that if I could not write or read, it was because I had so much of a problem with anxiety because of the things going on in the family. I couldn't go to sleep at night. I'd go to school and I couldn't learn anything."

    The book, which was released Wednesday, was written by Canadian journalist Mario Leclerc.

    Demers coached the Quebec Nordiques, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal and the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he was also general manager in the late 1990s.

    He was able to hide his illiteracy from all but a few people by asking secretaries and media relations people to write letters for him, claiming his English wasn't good enough.

    Even his wife Debbie didn't know until he told her after he put off writing checks to cover household bills for several days.

    When he was a general manager, he brought in Cliff Fletcher and Jay Feaster as assistants to handle contracts he couldn't read.

    "I never really was a GM," he said. "I hired Cliff Fletcher and Jay Feaster because I knew I couldn't do that."

    Since leaving the NHL coaching ranks, Demers has worked as a hockey analyst at the French-language RDS network for the last four years.

    For now, he is happy that he has gone public with his illiteracy.

    "I have no problem saying what I wanted to say. That's what I needed," he said. "I've been carrying this all my life. I succeeded, and I'm telling people 'you're capable of doing something in your life even if you have some big handicaps.' "
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    Mod Law zombie-a-go-go's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    I never knew there was a finite window in which one could learn to read, and if missed, could never be reopened.

    Sad, that a man must be illiterate his entire lifetime because he missed that window.
    "It's easier to give up. I'm not a very vocal player. I lead by example. I take the attitude that I've got to go out and do it. Because of who I am, I've got to give everything I've got to come back."
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    15 game winner Danny Serafini's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Quote Originally Posted by zombie-a-go-go
    I never knew there was a finite window in which one could learn to read, and if missed, could never be reopened.
    There isn't. It's much easier as a child, but it can definitely be picked up later in life as well.

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    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Quote Originally Posted by Danny Serafini
    There isn't. It's much easier as a child, but it can definitely be picked up later in life as well.
    Yup. Same with learning foreign languages and playing the piano.

    This is an amazing story, and I don't mean to make fun. But doesn anyone else see the humor in an illiterate guy being a co-author of a soon-to-be bestselling sports book?
    How, then, are those people of the future—who are taking steroids every day—going to look back on baseball players who used steroids? They're going to look back on them as pioneers. They're going to look back at it and say "So what?" - Bill James, Cooperstown and the 'Roids

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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Quote Originally Posted by cincinnati chili
    This is an amazing story, and I don't mean to make fun. But doesn anyone else see the humor in an illiterate guy being a co-author of a soon-to-be bestselling sports book?
    I was kind of thinking the same thing. I don't know if it's funny since the reasoning behind his illeteracy is tragic but it is somewhat ironic.
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    Member Cedric's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Well I doubt any of these guys that use ghost writers ever pick up a pen.
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    Member cumberlandreds's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    I have known a nember of men and women who have learned to read and write as adults. It is much more difficult to be sure. Learning is much easier as a child. Your mind just isn't as cluttered as much as a child.
    Reds Fan Since 1971

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    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    If this guy can learn to read as an adult....

    How, then, are those people of the future—who are taking steroids every day—going to look back on baseball players who used steroids? They're going to look back on them as pioneers. They're going to look back at it and say "So what?" - Bill James, Cooperstown and the 'Roids

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    I never knew there was a finite window in which one could learn to read, and if missed, could never be reopened.

    Sad, that a man must be illiterate his entire lifetime because he missed that window.
    Good Lord! The Sarcasm Detector is off the charts!
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    Joe Oliver love-child Blimpie's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Hard to believe that someone can act as GM for a professional hockey team and sign off on player contracts that he was unable to comprehend....
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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Demer's is a great coach. he got his start at the Junior level and worked there for a million years before getting his first pro coaching job with the Racers 30 years ago.

    He was the coach of the Stingers for a year too.

    Junior Hockey in the hinderlands of Canada will insulate a person, especially French Candians in Quebec... the fact that he became a GM is more shocking than the fact that he doesn't know how to read. But if you look at the list of his coaching credits, Detroit, Montreal, St. Louis and Quebec there is no doubt that the man might not be able to read, but isn't a dummy by any length of the imagination.

    Also note that his last NHL job was in TB (which was his GM job) where another former Stinger (Rick Dudley) took his job after the 99 season. Evidently his performance there wasn't good enough to get him hooked up ever again.

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    Joe Oliver love-child Blimpie's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou
    Junior Hockey in the hinderlands of Canada will insulate a person, especially French Candians in Quebec... the fact that he became a GM is more shocking than the fact that he doesn't know how to read. But if you look at the list of his coaching credits, Detroit, Montreal, St. Louis and Quebec there is no doubt that the man might not be able to read, but isn't a dummy by any length of the imagination.
    I hope that my post didn't imply that I felt this way. My feeling for Demers is one of empathy for somebody who apparently suffered through a terrible childhood--only to attain fantastic things within the sport.

    I just get kinda uneasy when I picture the actual scenes within his GM office of him asking others to review contracts--but without letting on the exact reasons for the request. Must have been terribly demoralizing for him all of those years.
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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Quote Originally Posted by Blimpie
    I hope that my post didn't imply that I felt this way. My feeling for Demers is one of empathy for somebody who apparently suffered through a terrible childhood--only to attain fantastic things within the sport.

    I just get kinda uneasy when I picture the actual scenes within his GM office of him asking others to review contracts--but without letting on the exact reasons for the request. Must have been terribly demoralizing for him all of those years.
    Nah, I'm sure his performance as GM helped pave his way to the broadcast booth.

    Hockey isn't the domain of the erudite thinking 24/7, therefore I think it would be easier to hide it at lower levels and in earlier times, but today it would be harder.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    http://www.detnews.com/2005/wings/05...ing-372781.htm

    We were tooling through Montreal in a hired limo on a grim, gray Saturday morning, and Jacques Demers was the tour guide.

    "That's where I went to school," said Demers in his Gallic-tinged English, pointing toward a large brick edifice.

    It was a Catholic school.

    "That's where my father worked as a butcher," Demers said.

    It was a kosher butcher's shop.

    It was winter, icy cold, and Demers was an impassioned visitor in his hometown. Demers' Red Wings had a game that night with the Canadiens, some 17 or 18 years ago. These were renaissance seasons for the Red Wings, after the barren years of the 1970s and '80s, and a Saturday night game at the venerable Forum was always a nostalgic trip for Jacques.

    He was engaging, delightful, as he always was, chattering away.

    "I drove a Coca-Cola truck here before I became a coach," Demers reminded me.

    And from there he became a very successful hockey coach, always with a tale to spin.

    That's why it was a shocking revelation to me the other day when Demers revealed in his autobiography that he was illiterate. He could speak two languages, in staccato machine-gun bursts, a bilingual master of hockey and stories. He was fluent in French, his first language, and he was excellent and informative conversing in English.

    And now he maintains he could not write in French or English -- and could barely read either one.

    Astonishing, for a guy who speaks two languages and communicated for years in one or the other to the media marvels, depending upon which language we could manage.

    Indeed, I was curious -- and then doubtful -- when I heard that unmistakable bass voice the other night while listening to the 6 o'clock news on the Canadian Broadcasting Co.'s Windsor outlet. Once a cynic, always a cynic, I believe.

    "All those years, I could be hurt, I could be fired, why are you going to hire a guy to coach your team who can't even read?" Demers said, speaking in English for his international radio audience.

    Of course these words were uttered at a book launching in Montreal's new Bell Centre, the Canadiens' hockey successor to the ancient Forum. Jacques has turned into a literary giant, it seems. Disclosing The Demers Secret never could harm sales.

    Demers wrote -- rather, I presume, dictated -- his memoirs to one Mario Leclerc, a reformed hockey beat writer. The ghostwritten book appears in Demers' first language, French, entitled: "Jacques Demers En Toute Lettres." It translates to "Jacques Demers In All Letters."

    An Associated Press article from the book unveiling, described as a gala affair, informed Demers said that his father had beaten him as a boy and had psychologically abused his mother.

    "All I wanted was my father to treat me with love," Demers was quoted by the wire service. "Not to beat me up when I did something wrong. It really hurt me because he took away my childhood.

    "The other thing I wanted to say was that if I could not read or write, it was because I had so much of a problem with anxiety because of things going on in the family. I couldn't go to sleep at night. I'd go to school and couldn't learn anything . . .

    "I've been carrying this all my life. I succeeded, and I'm telling people, 'you're capable of doing something in your life even if you have some big handicaps.'"

    Demers coached the Red Wings for four seasons, from 1986-87 though 1989-90. He did a remarkable job for a franchise that had been the NHL's laughingstock for more than a decade.

    Once the Wings had a rich tradition -- 30 years earlier. But they had finished last when Mike Ilitch and Jimmy Devellano hired Demers away from the Blues to be Wings coach. Actually, it was a coach snatching, tampering to obtain a coach already under employment. Ilitch and Devellano wanted Demers that much as their coach.

    And Demers was an immediate success in Detroit. Motivated by Demers, the Wings went from last to second in his first season, then to first and first again. Jacques was voted the Jack Adams Award as NHL's coach of the year in successive seasons. The Red Wings, missing the playoffs most every season since the 1960s, thrived in the postseason. Twice they reached the conference finals, ousted by Wayne Gretzky and Co. of the Edmonton Oilers.

    Then in 1989-90, the Red Wings plummeted to last place. Again.

    Jacques was summarily fired. As he apparently expected.

    Through those years, when we chatted, I kept dropping a comment to Jacques.

    "Someday you're going to coach the Canadiens."

    I remembered the warm greeting he received when he walked into the Forum that Saturday morning of our grand tour of Jacques Demers' Montreal.

    He was hired by the Canadiens. And in 1993, with Jacques as coach, the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

    They have not won it since.

    And ultimately, he was fired by the Canadiens as he had been by the Wings -- without any gratitude.

    He went on to coach and then become general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    "I never really was a GM," Demers was quoted as saying by the AP the other day while launching his book of true confessions. "I hired Cliff Fletcher and Jay Feaster because I couldn't do that.

    "I could read a little, but I can't write very well. I took to protecting myself. You put a wall around yourself. And when I was given the possibility of talking, I could speak well and I think that really saved me."

    For certain, Jacques Demers could speak well -- in both of his languages. As for writing, " . . . En Toute Letrres" is not Demers' first venture into print. For a few years, he delivered -- somehow - an analytical column for USA Today during the playoffs when there was hockey being played.

    Jacques Demers was forever a charmer, in Detroit, in Montreal, in St. Louis. He did have a bit of con artist in him, a schmoozer, with a touch of flimflam.

    There was this wonderful story about Jacques one night during the playoffs before his arrival with the Red Wings. He wanted to slow the pace during a playoff game to help his Blues. So, supposedly, he fished a handful of coins out of his pocket and flipped them onto the ice.

    Now The Demers Secret has been revealed -- the damaged boyhood, the difficulties in reading and writing in the two languages that he speaks so well.

    It was Jimmy Devellano, then GM of the Red Wings, who lured Demers to Detroit 19 years ago. Jacques wielded the pen himself when he affixed his name to his contracts. He was able to sign the Wings' player roster given to officials before every game, according to Devellano. But Jacques, indeed, could not handle the routine paperwork of being a coach and GM.

    Cynics be damned.

    Demers' memories offer much grist for a grisly tale; I eagerly await the English version.

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    Mod Law zombie-a-go-go's Avatar
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    Re: Jaques Demers admits he's illiterate

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool
    Good Lord! The Sarcasm Detector is off the charts!
    Thank you. I was beginning to think that I was too obtuse for popular consumption...
    "It's easier to give up. I'm not a very vocal player. I lead by example. I take the attitude that I've got to go out and do it. Because of who I am, I've got to give everything I've got to come back."
    -Ken Griffey Jr.


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