Former NHL coach Demers admits he's illiterate
ESPN.com news services
Jacques Demers, one of the NHL's most seasoned coaches, admits he is illiterate in a biography that was launched Wednesday.
In a book titled "Jacques Demers: En Toutes Lettres," meaning All Spelled Out, Demers admits his illiteracy and says the problem stemmed from an "impoverished" and abusive childhood.
Journal de Montreal editor and former Montreal Canadiens beat writer Mario Leclerc wrote the book. The French version was launched Wednesday in Montreal and the English version will be released in mid-February.
At the launch, Demers told The Canadian Press that his inability to read and write came after his father beat and psychologically abused Demers and his mother.
''All I wanted from my father was to treat me with love,'' Demers was quoted as saying at the launch by The Canadian Press. ''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.
''So the message is, leave the kids alone. Don't beat them up. They're defenseless. Don't beat up their mom in front of the kids. He was an alcoholic, but he also wasn't a very good person to do that.''
According to The CP's report, Demers says in the book that few knew of his problem and that he would ask assistants to write letters for him. Even his wife, Debbie, didn't find out until Demers broke down after not being able to write out checks for house bills.
Demers coached the Quebec Nordiques, the St. Louis Blues, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he was also general manager in the late 1990s, all without the ability to read or write.
When asked why he decided to go public with his illiteracy, Demers told reporters ''because I'm free now. I'm liberated.
''I have no problem saying what I wanted to say. That's what I needed. 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.'''
Rather surprising when you think of this guy who was successful as a NHL coach and general manager for years.