Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tony Demers - From Running with The Rocket to Prison

The story of Tony Demers is a case of promise unfullfilled and ultimate tragedy. Born in Chambly, Quebec in 1917, Demers began his professional hockey career with the Lachine Rapides of the QPHL in 1938/39. The following year with the Valleyfield V's he notched 30 goals in 35 games as well as playing 14 games with the Montreal Canadiens.

In 1940/41 he played a full season with the Habs and scored 13 goals and 23 points. The next year due to injuries he was limited to 7 games (and 7 points) in the big leagues and 14 more games back with Valleyfield. The next year of 1942/43 The Rocket arrived in Montreal. Tony Demers began the season on a line with the rookie Maurice Richard and Elmer Lach. It was Demers' first goal of the year which allowed Richard to gain his first ever NHL point on an assist. Richard however would only play 16 games as a rookie on account of a leg injury. Along with Lach playing only one game the previous year and Demers continuing injury woes, the unit was dubbed The Ambulance Line. Demers ended up with 7 points in 9 games in 42/43 and a longer injury list.

At the begining of the following year Demers was dealt to the New York Rangers and played 25 games for the AHL Providence Reds tallying 21 points. He would suit up for only one game with the Blueshirts this year before returning to the QPHL and Lachine in 1944/45. Of course, this season Maurice Richard scored 50 goals for the Habs and Montreal won the Stanley Cup. At the age of 27, Demers would never play in the NHL again.

Demers played the next four seasons in the Quebec circuit scoring 79, 68, 108 and 111 points each season and led in goals scored twice. It was at the end of the 48/49 when his legal troubles began in earnest. He was accused of betting on the outcome of game near the end of the season and was suspended for the first ten matches of of the next year. He would never serve the suspension.

On Sept. 16, 1949 Demers was arrested in the beating of his female aquaintance after a night of drinking together turned bad. Doctors would inform police that the victim appeared to have been beaten while Demers insisted the injuries were sustained when she jumped from his moving car. She died the following day and on Sept. 19 Tony Demers was charged with manslaughter. In November he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, he was released after serving 6 years. Demers never played hockey again. He died in 1997 at the age of 80.

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