Jacques Lemaire developed his hard slapshot as a youth by working with a heavy steel puck and his shot was rated second only to Bobby Hull for speed and accuracy. He used that powerful shot to beat Tony Esposito of Chicago, keying a Montreal comeback in game 7 of the 1971 finals en route to a Stanley Cup. His strong skating and excellent checking abilities also made him one of the game's best two-way players.
Lemaire was known for his overtime heroics in the playoffs, scoring three sudden death markers in his career. His overtime goal on May 14, 1977 won the Cup for Montreal against Boston. When he added the Cup winner in 1979 against the New York Rangers, he became one of only five players to have scored two Stanley Cup winning goals. During his career he averaged almost a point per game in the playoffs. He was a member of eight Stanley Cup winners while with the Canadiens and participated in the NHL All-Star games of 1970 and 1973.
Lemaire left the Canadiens after the 1979 Cup win and continued his career in Switzerland in preparation for a life as coach in the NHL. He found the transition from NHL player to European playing coach to be frustrating. "Most of the guys I coached had other jobs," he said. "They would work eight to ten hours a day and then come to practice. Sometimes they didn't show. I didn't know what to expect from them."
He returned to North America and accepted an assistant coaching position in Division 2 of the NCAA with Plattsburgh State University and also scouted and recruited for the school, working the Quebec and New England areas. He coached in the Quebec junior league before returning to the Canadiens in 1984 as head coach, replacing Bob Berry with 17 games remaining in the 1983-84 season. Lemaire guided the club into the Wales Conference Finals and was given the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year. But the pressures of coaching in hockey mad Montreal, coupled with bouts of insomnia, convinced him to give up his duties after the 1984-85 season.
Lemaire was moved "upstairs" to the position of Assistant to the Managing Director in 1985-86 where he stayed for seven seasons during which time he saw the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup in 1986 and 1993. His duties included being the managing director of the Fredericton Canadiens from 1991-93 and Managing Director of the Verdun Junior Canadiens in 1988-89.
He decided to step behind the bench again in New Jersey with the Devils in 1993 and remained there until 1998, winning a Stanley Cup 1995 while developing a sometimes unpopular, league-wide reputation for adopting a "trap" style of play for his team. Lemaire returned to Montreal as assistant general manager in 1998 and stayed with the organization until accepting the position of head coach with the expansion Minnesota Wild on June 11, 2000. After nine seasons with the Wild, Jacques returned to the Devils for two final seasons of coaching. Following the 2010-11 season, Lemaire moved into a special assignment coaching position with New Jersey. Prior to the 2016-17 NHL season, he followed Lou Lamoriello to the Toronto Maple Leafs to serve in a consulting role.
Jacques Lemaire was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984.