While myself, Mike, der Habinator, and all the good people of the world who cheer for the Habs and are stewing this very minute because of the lack of effort and coordination shown last night, I thought I’d get away from the day-to-day roller coaster ride the team takes us on and tell you about a Montreal Canadien player who didn’t exactly make the uniform proud. It’s interesting, and very, very sad.
It’s the story of a player for the Montreal Canadiens in the late 1930’s and into the ’40’s, and his name was Tony Demers. In a room in my house, I have a really nice photo of the Rocket, Elmer Lach, and Tony Demers posing as a line.
So the guy was on his way up, I suppose.
Demers was a guy who only played parts of five seasons in Montreal, as he bounced up and down from the minors. He scored only 20 goals total, so he was no star, not by a long shot. His short career ended in 1942, when he played one game with the New York Rangers, and that was that. Sort of. Because what came next wasn’t exactly what he probably had in mind.
In 1945, Demers was fined for an assault on a hotelkeeper. Then, the next year while playing senior hockey in Sherbrooke, he got involved in a gambling situation and was given a ten game suspension. But the suspension became the least of his problems.
In 1949, Demers was hauled in to the police station regarding the death of a woman who was later revealed to be Demer’s girlfriend. The story issued was that the two had been drinking heavily, they got into an argument, and that he had hit her. Hospital officials, though, claimed it was more than a simple hit, it was a thorough beating. Demers claimed she had gotten all her bruises from jumping from his moving car. And he didn’t take the unconscious woman to the hospital until the following day.
The court didn’t buy it.
Tony Demers was found guilty of manslaughter and was given 15 years in the maximum security St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary in Montreal. He seved eight of the fifteen before being released.
In the late 1980’s, while I was living in Ottawa, it was announced that this notorious St. Vincent de Paul was finally closing its doors after about 100 years, and the public was invited to tour the closed prison for a dollar. So I took my then-wife and our two kids to Montreal for the day to have a look.
The penitentiary was a horrendous place. They had left the cells the way they were, so clothes, writings on the walls, etc. were there as they had been. It was dirty and dark and my kids got scared. In Roger Caron’s book ‘Go Boy’, he described St. Vincent’s as the meanest and most dangerous prison in Canada, and he knew because he had served most of his adult life in different institutions all across the country.
So while the Rocket, Blake, and Lach, thrilled the Forum faithful with big goals and Stanley Cups, an old teammate, one who shared the dressing room, the train rides, the restaurants, and hotels, sat in a dark cell, maybe listening from time to time on the radio as his old friends carried on. It’s all very sad, but the guy, I’m sure, deserved it.
Demers went into obscurity after his release and had nothing to do with the hockey world after that. He died in 1997.