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How impressive was Jacques Demers' coaching career despite not being able to read?

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01-12-2017, 08:31 PM
  #1
Big Phil
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How impressive was Jacques Demers' coaching career despite not being able to read?

When he came out a few years back and told everyone he was illiterate what was your reaction? The first thing I thought was wow. I was impressed, in a way, because for a coach that was coaching in the NHL for about 15 years and who won a Cup and had three other healthy runs to the Cup it is just hard to imagine not being able to read.

For the record, Demers says that he was raised in a dysfunctional home and heard a lot of yelling and such as he was trying to sleep as a boy. This led him to be very tired at school and therefore never learning to properly read.

Just a hard thing to believe to be honest. Imagine going through even your teens not knowing how to read. There had to be times he was told to read something out loud to the class. Or even as a coach reading things like a contract or mail or whatever. He says he just winged it and always had a secretary explain things to him and read things over for him ahead of time. It makes sense, I mean you would find creative ways to deceive people into thinking you could read.

He said that there was the odd thing he could read or write. For example with autographs he learned how to write "Best Wishes" and stuff like that and it wasn't as if he could read nothing at all. He memorized things. But still was illiterate.

How do you feel about this whole thing. Does it make you think more of him? Does it impress you that someone can have that sort of handicap and still thrive?

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01-12-2017, 08:44 PM
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BenchBrawl
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
When he came out a few years back and told everyone he was illiterate what was your reaction? The first thing I thought was wow. I was impressed, in a way, because for a coach that was coaching in the NHL for about 15 years and who won a Cup and had three other healthy runs to the Cup it is just hard to imagine not being able to read.

For the record, Demers says that he was raised in a dysfunctional home and heard a lot of yelling and such as he was trying to sleep as a boy. This led him to be very tired at school and therefore never learning to properly read.

Just a hard thing to believe to be honest. Imagine going through even your teens not knowing how to read. There had to be times he was told to read something out loud to the class. Or even as a coach reading things like a contract or mail or whatever. He says he just winged it and always had a secretary explain things to him and read things over for him ahead of time. It makes sense, I mean you would find creative ways to deceive people into thinking you could read.

He said that there was the odd thing he could read or write. For example with autographs he learned how to write "Best Wishes" and stuff like that and it wasn't as if he could read nothing at all. He memorized things. But still was illiterate.

How do you feel about this whole thing. Does it make you think more of him? Does it impress you that someone can have that sort of handicap and still thrive?
Very impressed by Demers as a man.Hard not to like him.He seems like a genuinely good person, in a profound way.

Don't forget he was also Tampa Bay's general manager for a short time, which is even more impressive as someone who couldn't read at the time (he has since learned I believe).

As far his illiteracy, it's socially impressive because he had to hide it from almost everyone, which is a huge rock to have in your shoe while having a high pressure job.But technically, knowing how to read is not a very important skill for coaching a hockey team, as Demers demonstrated by his remarkable coaching career.


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01-12-2017, 08:51 PM
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Stephen
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At the end of the day, I guess hockey and coaching really isn't all that intellectual of a pursuit, but it is a remarkable story about how an illiterate person could make a mark. It's more impressive that he's an illiterate Canadian Senator.

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01-12-2017, 09:47 PM
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Johnny Engine
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Perhaps, but reading itself isn't really "all that intellectual".

almost everyone has to read every day at work, and that's especially true in management.

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01-12-2017, 10:18 PM
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Stoneburg
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In the old days, there were essentially two types of coaches: the motivators, and the disciplinarians. He was a motivator, requiring more verbal skills. During the Stanley Cup run, others helped with strategy.

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01-12-2017, 10:27 PM
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VanIslander
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"despite not being able to read" = SPITE over his success OR special treatment concerning his accomplishments.

In both cases I strenously object!

Demers was a great coach. The year I graduated high school and the year after he was the back-to-back Jack Adams trophy winner. Several year later, in 1993 he coached a 48-win club to the Stanley Cup championship.

How many coaches do you know that have won two coach-of-the-year awards in the NHL and the Stanley Cup?

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01-12-2017, 10:54 PM
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The Panther
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I've always wondered about this, too, because you'd think as a head-coach with a desk and paperwork on game-days for years on end, he would have been unable to complete many of his duties.

It must be the case where some of his aids and assistant-coaches "knew" (don't-ask, don't-tell kind of thing) that he was functionally illiterate, but they just kind of rolled with it, as you do.

Maybe it's not so strange after all, now that I think about it. Here in Japan, there are plenty of foreigners who can speak Japanese reasonably well and can communicate in a daily-needs kind of way, and even at work. However, relatively few of us can read Japanese comfortably (we often can read the Japanese 'kana' syllabary system, but can't read Chinese characters -- 'kanji'). And yet many such people are employed, even at universities or in big companies. We're functionally illiterate like Demers was... except he was fluent in English speaking (and of course French).

By the way, Demers has since become a reader, hasn't he? But does he read in English or French?

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01-12-2017, 11:33 PM
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Johnny Engine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VanIslander View Post
"despite not being able to read" = SPITE over his success OR special treatment concerning his accomplishments.

In both cases I strenously object!

Demers was a great coach. The year I graduated high school and the year after he was the back-to-back Jack Adams trophy winner. Several year later, in 1993 he coached a 48-win club to the Stanley Cup championship.

How many coaches do you know that have won two coach-of-the-year awards in the NHL and the Stanley Cup?
That's not what the word "despite" means.

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01-13-2017, 12:27 AM
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VanIslander
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"despite" is a negative word, "even though" would have been more neutral.

I like you, past ATDer, despite what you think.

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01-13-2017, 12:37 AM
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Killion
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
For the record, Demers says that he was raised in a dysfunctional home and heard a lot of yelling and such as he was trying to sleep as a boy. This led him to be very tired at school and therefore never learning to properly read.
He "came out" if you will back in 2005 at the age of 60 with the release of his book (the french version was released first selling 80,000 copies in record time with calls to Literacy Societies in PQ going up by over 300%) which is a terrific read... and yes, dysfunctional home, beyond dysfunctional in fact as Jacques father had a serious drinking problem, terrorizing him sadistically on an almost daily basis, living through his childhood terrified in fact, leading the poor kid to believe that he was worthless & dumb, literally scared witless, developed a learning disability, mental block as a result. His sisters helping him with his homework, got as far as Grade 8 & then dropped out. At 16, his Mother died of Cancer, at 20, his Old Man died sitting next to him in the front passenger seat as he drove them home from one of his sisters weddings and as he explains in the book, even after the living Hell his father had put him through, stolen his childhood really, he cried. All he'd ever wanted from his Father was love & that just never happened.... So.... he's driving a Coke Truck, full time job, hears a Jr.B organization is in need of Coaches, extra money.... applys, gets hired... soon after, hired as an Assistant Coach in the fledgling WHA & then HC.... and as 99% written materials are in English, easy and totally acceptable to say "sorry, I dont read english, could you tell me what this is" or ask whomever to deal with it themselves.... Easy to hide, but at the same time a concern as he knew that if his employers knew about it, he'd almost certainly wind up being fired and then what? Back to delivering Coca Cola?.... Really, a pretty remarkable & really not uncommon story of the age & era... but read the book for more... A real testament to guts, bravery, understanding why he was a "Players Coach", recounting many of the sometimes hysterical episodes in his life that his illiteracy created & the lengths he'd go to to keep it secret... like when he was promoted GM (while retaining Coaching duties) in Tampa, hiring Cliff Fletcher & Jay Feaster as his Assistants & so on...

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01-13-2017, 09:27 AM
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McGuillicuddy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VanIslander View Post
"despite" is a negative word, "even though" would have been more neutral.

I like you, past ATDer, despite what you think.
I have never thought of "despite" as being a negative word.

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01-13-2017, 09:47 AM
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AntsInMyEyesJohnson
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VanIslander View Post
"despite" is a negative word, "even though" would have been more neutral.

I like you, past ATDer, despite what you think.
Spite is a negative. Despite is not, as it's lacking spite. Spite being essentially defined as "negative presence" in this regard. Translating into, regardless of (de) negative influences (spite).

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01-13-2017, 10:48 AM
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Johnny Engine
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Yeah, I'm sure Jacques would rather he be able to read, but he went ahead and had a spectacular career anyway.

On the same token, im sure Bob Baun woul rather have not broken his leg, but that doesn't take away from his big goal in the least.

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01-13-2017, 11:20 AM
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To be honest, I don't understand where there hasn't been a campaign of sorts to get him in the HHOF. Too alive?

Because, amongst coaches who directly, tangibly influenced the results of something... He ranks REALLY HIGH.

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01-13-2017, 12:02 PM
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tony d
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One of the better coaches of all time. Quite inspiration too. Unable to read but was still 1 heck of a coach.

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01-13-2017, 01:22 PM
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Killion
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Originally Posted by Johnny Engine View Post
Perhaps, but reading itself isn't really "all that intellectual".
Well, it can be, often is however just because someones' illiterate doesnt necessarily mean that they themselves are not intellectuals, able to not only grasp but so too discuss & debate matters of import & abstraction... and an interesting comparison below;

Quote:
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Yeah, I'm sure Jacques would rather he be able to read, but he went ahead and had a spectacular career anyway.

On the same token, im sure Bob Baun would rather have not broken his leg, but that doesn't take away from his big goal in the least.
... as Bob Baun was considered an "intellectual" amongst his peers when playing, forever reading books on philosophy, religion, physics & so on while playing, into his later years. Attended Lectures on subjects he was interested in etc. Didnt pursue it academically per se', indeed, more pragmatically he instead was very careful with his money & opened a couple of Tim Hortons outlets (one in the Upper Beaches area of Toronto, the other located in a highway 401 rest stop & fuel station east of the city), ran them for years and hardly what youd classify as a "high-brow" pursuit or career choice.

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01-13-2017, 04:01 PM
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What's his excuse for not learning after he became an adult?

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01-13-2017, 04:09 PM
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Killion
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What's his excuse for not learning after he became an adult?
... its been awhile since Ive read his book but I seem to recall that he was just too busy making a living, getting married & having kids, then with the sort of transient nature of Coaching he could never find the time and was embarrassed in being "found out". But sure, he couldve secretly taken maybe some summer crash courses, hired a private tutor however, not even his wife knew about it for years, too ashamed to tell even her. She found out after a bunch of Bill's stacked up high, unpaid, getting phone calls from creditors, so he had to sit her down & explain that he couldnt read, couldnt read the Bills, invoices. So you can imagine just how far he went in covering up his handicap that not even the woman he loved, best friend etc knew about it. He only coming clean when a crisis of overdue bills piled up.

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01-13-2017, 04:11 PM
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MXD
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Originally Posted by BobbyAwe View Post
What's his excuse for not learning after he became an adult?
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Originally Posted by Killion View Post
... its been awhile since Ive read his book but I seem to recall that he was just too busy making a living, getting married & having kids, then with the sort of transient nature of Coaching he could never find the time and was embarrassed in being "found out". But sure, he couldve secretly taken maybe some summer crash courses, hired a private tutor however, not even his wife knew about it for years, too ashamed to tell even her. She found out after a bunch of Bill's stacked up high, unpaid, getting phone calls from creditors, so he had to sit her down & explain that he couldnt read, couldnt read the Bills, invoices.
This, combined with Anxiety.

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01-13-2017, 04:22 PM
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Killion
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This, combined with Anxiety.
Yes. Anxiety in that if it ever "leaked out" that his career in hockey would be over, which it could very likely have well been & then what? Grade 8 Dropout. No real trade or skill. Family to feed, mortgage to pay. Dont believe Coke Delivery Truck Drivers make the same money as a WHA or NHL Coach huh? and even at that, by the 70's youd be expected to be able to read Shipping Orders etc yes? He'd have been screwed. ... Apparently while he was Coaching in Montreal, a Reporter did discover his secret, Jacques absolutely terrified, swearing him to secrecy which fortunately was honored. Pretty crazy situation. That in this day & age yet it does happen. Dickensian, ike a throwback to the 19th Century or earlier when education for many simply wasnt available or if it was considered a luxury that any given family simply couldnt afford as children were required to start earning their keep at very young ages.

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01-13-2017, 06:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VanIslander View Post
"despite" is a negative word, "even though" would have been more neutral.

I like you, past ATDer, despite what you think.
It is sort of like saying the 2001 Avalanche won the Cup despite Forsberg being injured. It describes what I would think of as a disadvantage. Not that we are putting down Demers here, but I think we can all agree not being able to read is not an advantage.

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To be honest, I don't understand where there hasn't been a campaign of sorts to get him in the HHOF. Too alive?

Because, amongst coaches who directly, tangibly influenced the results of something... He ranks REALLY HIGH.
No, I don't think he falls into the HHOF category. I liked him personally and he could coach my team anyday, and him being fired from Montreal was a mistake I think and it led to Roy being traded as the two got along well. But a HHOF coach? I don't think so, that's a pretty high honour. He doesn't have a resume any better than John Tortorella and he's not getting in.

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What's his excuse for not learning after he became an adult?
Not that I am comparing the two, but would a sexual assault victim not want to reveal what happened to them for the same reasons? Shame perhaps? This is what I would think Demers may have been thinking. You can't read at 10? Fine, we'll fix that. You can't read at 20? Really? You can't read at 40? Are you kidding me? Stuff like that I am sure he wanted to avoid. Just a hunch.

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01-14-2017, 10:07 AM
  #22
MXD
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No, I don't think he falls into the HHOF category. I liked him personally and he could coach my team anyday, and him being fired from Montreal was a mistake I think and it led to Roy being traded as the two got along well. But a HHOF coach? I don't think so, that's a pretty high honour. He doesn't have a resume any better than John Tortorella and he's not getting in.
He's similar to Tortorella the same way he's similar to Pat Burns.

And Demers definitely had a bigger "say" on his cup win than either. Hell, he might just be the coach with the biggest tangible influence on the course of a season since Lester Patrick!
Besides, Demers' expected Cups was probably zero, as opposed to Burns and Torto, did win the Jack Adams twice in a row, had his say making sure the Dead Wings becoming the Red Wings, not to mention the whole literacy-awareness that he brought about at the end of his career.

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01-14-2017, 10:18 AM
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BenchBrawl
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Always respected the move by Harper to make him a Senator.Demers is a great man in every sense of the word.I know some criticized Harper because "Oh one of the highest position in the country and an illiterate person has it, this is not serious", but imo those people don't understand life (grand statement I know).

Give me a man like Demers who accomplished so much with so little given to him when starting his life over some hotshot lawyer/politician (or whatever) who never struggled and faced the abyss a day in his life.

Sure, you don't want only people like Demers, but his place was completely deserved.

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01-14-2017, 12:18 PM
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tarheelhockey
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Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
For the record, Demers says that he was raised in a dysfunctional home and heard a lot of yelling and such as he was trying to sleep as a boy. This led him to be very tired at school and therefore never learning to properly read.
Safe to say there was more going on with him psychologically than just being "tired".

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01-14-2017, 12:20 PM
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BenchBrawl
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Safe to say there was more going on with him psychologically than just being "tired".
Agreed.

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