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Former NHL coach Demers admits he's illiterate

11/3/2005 - NHL

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.' "