Politics

Jacques Demers, Quebec senator and ex-NHL coach, hospitalized after stroke

Quebec senator Jacques Demers has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke on Wednesday night, CBC News has confirmed. He is in stable condition.

Senator, who quit the Tory caucus last month, is in stable condition

Quebec Senator and former NHL coach Jacques Demers has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke on Wednesday night, CBC News has confirmed. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Sen. Jacques Demers is in a Montreal hospital in what one colleague described as "serious but stable" condition after suffering a stroke.

Claude Carignan, the Conservative leader in the Senate, said he spoke with the assistant to the former NHL coach and was told the 71-year-old was conscious Thursday morning.

Demers, who coached the Montreal Canadiens to their 1993 Stanley Cup victory, is a patient of the team's current doctor, David Mulder.

Mulder, along with hospital staff, were monitoring Demers' condition and trying to stabilize him, Carignan said.

"He's in good hands," said Carignan, who was appointed alongside Demers to the Senate in 2009 by Stephen Harper. "I am convinced that with his strength, he'll come back to us fully recuperated with all of his energy."

Carignan and Demers remained friends even after Demers quit the Conservative caucus several months ago to sit as an Independent in the Red Chamber.

At the time, he had said he was uncomfortable with some of the machinations involved in the Senate expenses scandal and chafed at having to vote the Conservative party line all the time.

Suffered concussion last year

Demers suffered a concussion last spring after a fall and took several weeks off to get better. Carignan said his friend came back from that injury in full form.

Carignan added that Demers is well-liked by senators of all stripes.

He said Demers is active on the Senate foreign affairs committee and was an excellent ambassador during his many trips abroad.

"He guarantees success because he opens lots of doors," Carignan said.

Demers also coached the Quebec Nordiques, the Detroit Red Wings, the St. Louis Blues and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A number of public figures sent their best to Demers as news of his stroke spread Thursday, with the prime minister among them.

"Sending my best wishes to Senator Jacques Demers for a full recovery. Get well soon," Justin Trudeau tweeted.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also tweeted their best wishes.

Former Canadiens forward Vincent Damphousse, who works with Demers as a TV analyst, called him "a kind of father figure" on the panel.

"He's the same guy you see on TV that you see outside," he said. "There's no facade. No mask. We all wish him good health."

In 2005, Demers publicly disclosed he was functionally illiterate and had to hide it throughout most of his life, including his 15 years in the NHL.

When he was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper, he told CBC News he had worked very hard to improve his reading skills and was confident he would be able to serve in the upper chamber.

"I listen; I pay attention," Demers said at the time. "They say to me I have common sense, and that's very important."

With files from CBC News

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