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LA Kings Retired Trainer Pete Demers Was Honored To Serve On International Stage

FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Head athletic trainer emeritus Pete Demers not only spent 37 years in the Los Angeles Kings organization, but he lent his expertise to both Canada and the United States on the international level, at World Championships, the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, and the 1998 Olympic Winter Games. In part seven of this series on his career, Demers reflects on his time on the international stage.


Retired Los Angeles Kings head athletic trainer Pete Demers (third from right) worked several international tournaments, but got his start on the international stage, not with his native United States, but with Canada, in 1986.
Photo: Demers Family Collection

LOS ANGELES — In 43 years of existence, the Los Angeles Kings came close once in 1993, but they have never been able to win the Holy Grail of hockey, the most revered and treasured trophy in professional team sports, the Stanley Cup.

That’s 43 years of stinging disappointment felt by players, coaches, general managers, owners, and fans alike. That also goes for the athletic trainers, and Kings head athletic trainer Pete Demers felt that sting for 34 of those 43 years, before retiring in 2006.

Although Demers won a Calder Cup championship with the Springfield Kings of the American Hockey League, the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate, back in 1971, little did he know that would be the only championship in professional hockey that he would ever be a part of.

But with the Kings often failing to qualify for post-season play, or getting bounced out in the first round time and time again, Kings players, coaches and staff were often called upon to represent their countries at the international level, usually in the annual World Championship tournaments.

That includes Demers, who was the trainer for Team USA at the World Championships in Austria in 1996. That same year, he served as the trainer for the United States, the championship team at the World Cup of Hockey.

In 1997, Demers once again served as trainer for Team USA at the World Championships, and, in 1998, he was with Team USA once again at the XVIII Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

But Demers’ international experience did not start with the United States’ hockey teams. In fact, it started in an entirely different sport altogether when he served as a United States Olympic Committee athletic trainer for the United States’ gold medal-winning Men’s Basketball team during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

A hockey trainer? Working for a basketball team? Despite how it might seem, this is not at all far-fetched.

“It’s Sports Medicine,” said Demers. “You’re pretty dialed in on all the anatomy features and the diagnostic aspects. Nothing beats experience, but by the time we finish our schooling, we’re pretty versed in Sports Medicine.”

“To be a certified trainer, you have to go to a school that has an approved curriculum by the National Athletic Trainers Association, so you’re going for your degree in Athletic Training,” added Demers. “Back when I started, there were only a few schools around that offered that curriculum. Indiana [University], Duke and Long Beach State (California State University, Long Beach).”

“There are sports-specific injuries in all sports. However, we always like a hockey guy to come in, but there’s crossover all the time. Our president of the [Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society] is Ray Tufts. He’s the San Jose [Sharks] trainer. He worked for the [San Francisco] 49’ers [of the National Football League].”

Demers’ international hockey experience began in 1986, but not with him representing his country. Rather, he got his start with bronze medal winner Canada during the 1986 World Championships in Moscow.

“[Then-Kings head coach] Pat Quinn was the coach of Team Canada in the World Championships,” Demers explained. “We had seven players from the Kings on that team.”

“The Kings didn’t make the playoffs, so Pat Quinn was chosen as the coach,” Demers elaborated. “He thought it would be a good idea to have his trainers, [even though Kings assistant athletic trainer] Mark O’Neill and I were Americans.”

Demers has fond memories of winning the World Cup of Hockey championship in 1996.

“We got pretty lucky in the World Cup,” said Demers, who received USA Hockey’s Bob Johnson Award that year, in recognition of excellence in international ice hockey competition during a specific season of play. “We lost the first game in Philadelphia, then went to Montreal, played two games. We had a real good team, but Canada had so much depth.”

“I still think that {former Kings defenseman] Rob Blake would’ve made the difference for Canada,” added Demers. “They were real good. Just match up their squad against the US squad. There are more good Canadian players than we have here. But he had an infection in his elbow—He was our player, so I went to see him in the hospital every day. He might’ve made the difference.”

Indeed, Canada was a heavy favorite. But Team USA was not intimidated.

“We were prepared,” Demers noted. “We did everything. [New Jersey Devils general manager] Lou Lamoriello was running the team. Figure it out. I know [the Devils] aren’t winning this year, but look at his record, look at his character.”

“Canada won the first game in Philadelphia, and both teams were walking alongside each other back to the locker rooms,” Demers added. [Team Canada center] Eric Lindros said, ‘one down, one to go.’”

“I said to myself, ‘don’t say that, wait a minute.’ That has always stuck with me after that. The games were close, but we won. That was a real thrill, especially representing your country again.”

Team USA - 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
Demers is pictured here, waving.
Photo: Demers Family Collection

Demers is especially proud of being asked to represent his country at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, even though the United States was eliminated from the tournament in short order.

“We were prepared to do some damage,” Demers lamented. “We had success in the World Cup two years before, and had virtually the same team. It just didn’t happen. Maybe we went to Nagano with more confidence than we should’ve.”

“To get selected to go to the Olympics is paramount,” Demers added. “To serve your country—I’m a military veteran, Vietnam Era—it was great. We had a great bunch of guys that we had from the World Cup. We went over there with a lot of optimism, and it didn’t work out like we wanted. “

“Lou Lamoriello was disappointed in our performance on the ice, so we got out of there real quick. The next morning [following their elimination from the tournament], we were on the Bullet Train to Tokyo, and we were gone. We had gone over on a charter plane, stopped at Anchorage on the way, and flew right into Nagano.”

One memorable aspect, for the wrong reasons, of the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan were the reports of Team USA players breaking chairs in the Olympic Village.

The players were made out to be vandals and poor sports in various media reports. But Demers had another view.

“We got some negative press there, in the end, about some chairs that had been broken, and stuff that was banged up in the village,” he said. “But, honestly, if you sat in one of those chairs, they’d break.”

“The chairs were made for little Japanese guys, not big Japanese guys,” he added. “There were broken chairs in all of the countries’ quarters. I remember seeing them. They didn’t make them solid enough.”

Whether it was toiling away behind the scenes in the Kings dressing rooms, or working international tournaments, Demers always had fun.

“It’s all about fun,” said Demers. “You can’t stay at your job unless you have the enthusiasm, attitude, and work as hard as you possibly can, but it’s fun. That’s why we do these jobs. You have no idea how much fun it is to walk in that door every day, what a privilege it is, and realizing that it is a privilege. You don’t take anything for granted because tomorrow morning, they could call you in and tell you that they’re going to make a change.”

“You have to be thankful for what you’ve got when you walk in that door, and to get a chance to work in those World Championships, Olympics, and different tournaments—it’s the other side of the coin,” added Demers. “If [the Kings] were winning, I probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity, and if I didn’t have my past experience with the World Championships, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work at the World Cup and the Olympics.”

Another opportunity Demers got was to work with Lamoriello, who became a major influence.

“I knew him—I grew up in Providence, and he was playing at Providence College,” Demers explained. “I remember him teaching me how to take a snap shot in the old rink in Providence. He’s six or seven years older, so we grew up about the same time.”

“Lou was a very firm guy when we did the Olympics and the World Cup,” Demers elaborated. “I think that as you go along, guys like that keep you from being complacent in your job. They keep you on your toes. So, in the beginning, it was [former Kings player and head coach] Bob Pulford with me, and then, rounding down towards the end of my career in the 90’s and in the Olympics, Lou kind of kept it going—you’re not just here because someone likes you. You’re here because you can do a good job and we have trust and loyalty in your job. Everybody needs that push as you go along.”

Staying on his toes is probably an understatement.

“As trainers, we maintain that consistent level,” Demers explained. “We can’t go wacko—in the playoffs, we’re looking to do more. We know that we can always do more.”

“It goes back to Lou Lamoriello, when I worked with him during the World Cup and the Olympics,” Demers elaborated. “We had meetings every morning at 7:00. He asked, one morning, if there was anything at all that we can do to make things better for our players. I said that, as far as I know, I had all the bases covered, we’ve done all we can do.”

“He said, ‘we can always do more.’ You build on comments like that.”

But there was much more from Lamoriello.

“Then there’s factors that Lou Lamoriello brought up, loyalty and trust,” said Demers. “It’s a mutual thing. The people you’re taking care of have to realize your loyalty and your trust, because when they’re laying out there on the ice, they’d better hope that I know what to do.”

“That’s where the trust comes in. The loyalty, you build that. You can’t buy that when you walk in the door. You check your ego when you walk in the door.”

This series will now go on hiatus until the off-season, but check back after the Stanley Cup Finals are over in mid-June when this series will resume.

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16 Responses to LA Kings Retired Trainer Pete Demers Was Honored To Serve On International Stage

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  7. Andrew Honig says:

    Pete Demers will always be one of the greatest parts of the Los Angeles Kings organization. Great read Gann!

  8. Michael Fischer Art says:

    cheers pete! the kings true off ice hero, they should name a street after that guy.

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