It’s in Darrell Demers’ eyes. As he stares at the camera, veiled in shadow, you can feel the emotion as he speaks. He loves his son, Sharks defenseman Jason Demers, and speaks so proudly you can practically see the lump in his throat.
It’s a genuine moment and it’s shepherded by Darrell’s other son, of whom he is equally proud. Kevin Demers, a minor-pro hockey player turned filmmaker, made his family the guinea pig of a new project: #1 Fan.
The video series features NHL parents talking about their sons and their favorite moments watching their babies bloom into successful pros. Naturally, Kevin chose his brother Jason, who currently leads the NHL with a plus-6 rating, as the first subject. Dad Darrell happily obliged. So did mom, Guylaine, but she was so happy she couldn’t get through a take without tearing up.
Kevin’s goal is to eliminate what he feels is a disconnect between fans and the players in an era of media scrums, clichéd quotes and publicized salary figures. “I thought, ‘How does a normal person get back into the game of hockey and how are they going to appreciate the players?’ ” Kevin Demers said. “The best way is where they come from. You have to see that they’re more than just guys with money who don’t care about anything. That’s not the case. All the guys are unbelievable people and you sort of lose that connection nowadays.
“Everyone getting up to the NHL has a different story. Some of them could have a single mother who had three jobs and was driving them to practice at five in the morning. That’s a beautiful story, It’s a story that should be out because, in the end, it’s not just the determination of the kid, it’s the determination of the parents as well.”
The Demers are about as enthusiastic about their kids as parents get – Kevin describes them as the types who post every one of his and Jason’s accomplishments on their wall – but the video still moved Jason when he saw it. “They’re probably the closest people to your ascent to the NHL,” Jason Demers said. “They know what you’ve sacrificed. And to hear their thoughts is really touching.”
Kevin plans to shoot many more one-minute segments with NHL parents around the league. Ideally, he’d like to use the series to launch a charity devoted toward raising money for underprivileged children and families who can’t afford hockey equipment.
As the series continues, watch for Chet Couture, father of Sharks center Logan. “He saw the video and said, ‘I’m there, I’m next,’ ” Kevin said. “Already it’s taking off.”