Those in attendance at the SD&G Conservative Association Breakfast got a small glimpse of what it must have been like in the locker room, the night the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup back in 1993, as former coach Jacques Demers delivered his message loud and clear.
Touching only slightly on the subject of politics, the now Senator Demers, speaking in both French and English, recounted his difficulties growing up in poverty, with an abusive father, illiteracy, and his struggles later on to even get a truck-driving job, when he couldn’t read or write to get his licence.
“I worked on that truck for 11 years and was happy,” he said. “I thought it was the best job in the world. Hard work never killed anybody. That was the way that I would get out of poverty and misery.”
“There are a lot of people in this hall that have been through difficulties and are still going through difficulties. You’ve got to be strong, have a positive attitude. I had every reason in the world to give up. There are a lot of Jacques Demers in this room; you have a chance at life you don’t give up.”
Against all odds, it was his hard work, spirit and good old fashioned values, he says, that led him to the life he is living now. Demers would eventually become a coach in the National Hockey League, winning back to back Jack Adams Awards as Coach of the Year, and leading the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup victory. In 2009 he was nominated by Prime Minister Harper to the Senate.
“Politics is a different life; I’m honoured to have been chosen.”
Of his success in hockey, Demers summed it up.
“I always thought about the team before anything. Team was a way to success.”
Demers remembered that year, that they had problems with some of the players.
“We lost some games that we shouldn’t have lost, but one thing we always did was stick together, fight together, and not point fingers. We have a society of people that when things are going bad they point fingers. We have to take responsibility for our own actions.”
Referring to himself as “Coach,” Demers went on to explain the importance of treating his players with respect, making sure that the fourth line felt as important as the first. “Maybe they weren’t as good as Steve Yzerman, Doug Gilmour or Patrick Roy, but they were important too.”
“We won the cup because we pulled together; we believed in each other.”
Comparing community to his team, Demers went on to say “If you all go your own way, you’re not going to succeed, but if you all get together and (you want to) make this the most beautiful city, you’ll make it the most beautiful city in the world.”
Approximately 300 attended the breakfast held at the Agora Centre, formally Nativity Hall.