Call it a full circle story.
Cleve Dheensaw’s induction into the BC Sports Hall of Fame is definitely that.
His outstanding 40-year career as the chronicler of Vancouver Island sports has its roots in a visit to the original BC Sports Hall of Fame at the PNE.
That day young Cleve saw a display on his favourite BC Lion Willie Fleming. He was astonished to learn a team from his hometown Victoria—the Cougars—won the Stanley Cup in 1925. He saw photos and artifacts from other great Victoria athletes like the Patrick and Peden brothers. A passion for BC’s sport history ignited within him that’s still burning today, but Cleve never dreamt he’d be awarded his own place of honour.
“If you’d have told that 13-year-old kid that one day you’ll be in this Hall too, I’d never have believed you in a million years,” he said.
Cleve grew up playing hockey and lacrosse, but he showed more promise with the written word. He began writing at Victoria High School, the third great BC sportswriter after Jim Kearney and Jim Taylor to emerge from Vic High. Taylor proved a major influence on Cleve.
While attending the University of Victoria to become a teacher, Cleve wrote for The Martlet and stumbled onto one of the biggest sports beats in BC: the UVIC men’s and women’s basketball teams coached by Ken and Kathy Shields, who were in the midst of national dynasties.
“It’s so strange how it turned out,” he marveled. “What I went to UVIC for—a teacher—I never became. What I took up as a hobby, became my career.”
The direction of Cleve’s career was set after that. He began writing for the Victoria Times-Colonist in 1981 and hasn’t stopped since, in that time shining the spotlight on countless great BC athletes from their fledgling days to international stardom. Athletes like Steve Nash, Silken Laumann, Simon Whitfield, Paul and Gary Gait, and Gareth Rees among thousands of others.
During his career, he covered three Olympic Games in person and Tokyo 2020 will be his fourth. He reported on six Commonwealth Games between 1990 and 2014, as well as the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
To date, Cleve has written six books on sport including Island of Champions: A Sporting History of Vancouver Island and Olympics 100: Canada at the Summer Games.
In 2017, he received two career honours: the Fred Collins Award for outstanding coverage of Canada West university sports and the Fred Sgambati Media Award from U Sports for national coverage of Canadian university sport.
Cleve is the first BC Sports Hall of Fame media inductee who spent his entire career outside the Vancouver media market.
“We have long established roots on the Island,” he explained. “People always ask me ‘Why didn’t you go to the mainland to write?’ Well, I’m just an Island guy. It’s home to me.”
You can make the argument that no sportswriter in Canada has covered a similar-sized region for so long, so well, and so thoroughly, and done so, without the slightest hint of ego.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
To read more on the career of Cleve Dheensaw, please see the June 2020 Curator’s Corner article here: https://bcsportshall.com/curator-corner/cleve-dheensaw-a-full-circle-story-2020-inductee-spotlight/