Honourable senators, I can still see Jacques Demers in the other chamber, sitting across from me, with that smile on his face every day. I have my Habs pin on today that Coach gave me early in his career in the Senate. He said I could call him Coach. He said we could all call him Coach. That was a wonderful thing.
He was an incredible NHL coach, World Hockey Association Hall of Famer, head coach of the Quebec Nordiques, the St. Louis Blues, the Detroit Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Then it was the Montreal Canadiens, the Stanley Cup, 1992-93 — the last time a Canadian team won a Stanley Cup.
During that series, I had moved back to Canada from China with my sons. We were sitting at home, and I convinced my sons, then 5 and 8 years old, that I also played for the Montreal Canadiens. Never did I imagine being a senator, let alone a senator sitting in the same chamber as both hockey greats Jacques Demers and Frank Mahovlich, the Big M.
Dreams do come true, colleagues. Those were fun times. It was no surprise that during that time, there was also a bell ringing taking effect. Believe it or not, we rang bells in those days. It was during that time, because the hockey season was at the same time or the Stanley Cup playoffs, we would talk hockey while the bells rang. We found it convenient to be sitting in the Senate or elsewhere talking about a trade, a penalty shot, a call or a playoff run.
It didn’t take long for us to connect on hockey and other issues, because sports are important to me. We talked about the Special Olympics movement, that sports can be transformative, build confidence and change lives, being part of a team and having good role models. That is what he was: a role model, a mentor. It can make a positive difference in a person’s life. Coach knew that. I know that Jacques Demers has made that difference in many players’ lives through his leadership and involvement in hockey.
Something very important happened in here. You might remember Senator Joyce Fairbairn, her literacy cause and how good she was with that. She and Jacques connected immediately and she helped him along the way. Not being able to read did not stop Jacques Demers from convincing Canada and the world that you can do anything you want in this country or anywhere. Jacques was that man. Senator Fairbairn was an ally for him in the Senate through that triumph.
Honourable senators, when I think of Coach, I see his big smile and I think of a man who treats everyone with respect and dignity. He treats everyone like a winner.
I love this Montreal Canadiens pin. It goes right up there with my Senate pin, although sometimes perhaps a little higher. Maybe one day they will win the cup again. It reminds me of what Coach Demers believes in, and I want to thank him for his wisdom.
I don’t for the life of me know how this got here; I know you are not supposed to have props. He came here wearing a blue uniform, but I always felt Jacques Demers looked better in red.
Thank you, honourable senators.