The NHL’s Jacques Demers was able to win a Stanley Cup but he now admits there has been one skill he was never able to master: how to read. The former Montreal Canadiens coach says in a new biography by sports writer Mario LeClerc that while he can write his name and a few other words, he is functionally illiterate, unable to read most sentences. Demers says he first admitted his problem to his wife in 1984, when she complained about always being his secretary. Demers managed to keep his illiteracy a secret from just about everyone else as he built his career in the NHL, fearing that it would damage his career. In the new biography, Demers says he was raised by an abusive, alcoholic father in a poor area of Montreal. He believes that watching his father repeatedly beat his mother impaired his ability to learn to read and write. Most literacy problems stem from learning disabilities that are never diagnosed. As a popular sport figure Demers’ admission is important to bring this issue to the forefront.
Jacques Demers is a former French Canadian head coach for the National Hockey League Montreal Canadiens, Quebec Nordiques, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning. He has won two consecutive Jack Adams Awards (awarded annually to the NHL coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”), with Detroit in 1987 and 1988, the only person to do this in consecutive years. In 1993 he led Montreal to its most recent Stanley Cup. As of 2007, he was named the 100th most influential personality in hockey by The Hockey News magazine.