Jacques Demers was at a book launch on Wednesday, getting the word out about a biography of his storied coaching and media career and a whole lot more. It was a book however, which he probably could not read very well , but one which may help many others face up to the challenge of literacy.
Demers faced a media scrum in Montreal at the launch of his book Jacques Demers: En tout lettres. During the press conference, Demers confessed to something he had been carrying around with him for many years, that he is illiterate. Family problems exacerbated Demers problem growing up, including an abusive father who effectively stripped Demers of his childhood. Demer's formative years were viewed through a prism of fear, one which would result in him entering adulthood with little in the way of reading or writing skills.
As the years would go by, Demers arranged to cover his lack of literacy, having others handle his correspondences, hiring assistants to take care of the contract negotiations. He even had his wife fooled up to a point, his secret was discovered as cheques remained unwritten to handle household expenses, finally Demers had to come clean with someone, his wife. But many others would never know of the situation. It's amazing to many that he was able to handle the job without being able to read. In today's NHL e mails, scouting reports and many other matters are routinely funneled through a computer, it would be a daunting task today, but Demer's seemed so determined he would probably have found a solution.
Many will find it amazing that Demers has limited skills in reading and writing, one of the most engaging of coaches in the history of the NHL, Demers transferred that quality to the broadcast booth. He currently is one of the most astute observers of hockey in Quebec on television, still able to break down plays and explain the inner workings of a hockey team.
His book, which was written by Mario Leclerc, an editor Le Journal de Montreal and a former Canadiens beat writer, it features 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet. It's his hope that by allowing his guard to drop and sharing his darkest moments, that somehow he can get the message out to parents not to be abusive to their children, to leave them alone to grow up in a happy and learning environment.
It very well may be the best coaching advice this quality educator has ever given.