If you watch Sportsnet, you may have noticed that I’ve decided to sport a moustache. I know some people don’t like it. But it’s not going away for a while. Here’s why.
I started my facial hair journey back in November as part of the Movember push for cancer awareness and fund-raising. I’d never taken part in Movember before, but this time I had an excellent reason to do my best Lanny McDonald : My big brother Dave had a lump the size of a peanut in the back of his mouth. It was cancer. Salivary gland cancer.
To be honest, the news didn’t come as a massive shock. Dave had been a heavy smoker and had spent much of his life working as a bartender, sucking in Lord knows how much second-hand poison. The lack of surprise, however, took nothing away from the deep sting my family and I felt.
Dave Taylor was my hero growing up. He was eight years older than me and an athletic stud. He wasn’t tall. He wasn’t imposing. Heck, he spent much of his childhood wearing nerd-approved horn-rimmed glasses. But he was fast. And smart. He excelled at every sport he played, especially lacrosse. He helped Team B.C. win a 1969 Canada Games gold medal. He played Junior “A” lacrosse for Burnaby Cablevision and was a member of the Richmond Roadrunners team that won the 1971 Minto Cup. Dave went on to earn a field lacrosse scholarship at Ohio State University and then played in the WLA, followed by a professional stint in Montreal.
But here’s what I remember most about my brother: We grew up on Union Street in North Burnaby. I guess it was a tough neighbourhood. No one had a lot of money. No one had fancy cars. Everyone had a working class Dad you wouldn’t dare mess with. But we were very close. And the main reason for that closeness was my brother’s decision to turn part of the massive Taylor backyard into a ball hockey rink. The surface was packed-down dirt. We used plywood for boards. Our nets were made in metal shop at school. To every kid who lived in the area, that place was paradise. We played ball hockey all day long, every day. We eventually formed a competitive team called the Burnaby Beavers. The Beavers won the 1983 Canadian Ball Hockey championship. My brother was at the root of it all.
One day, a new family moved into our neighbourhood: the Zanons. They had a son named George who, hockey stick in hand, made his way over to our backyard. There was a game going on and it was obvious George wanted to play but was too shy to ask. My brother invited him in and made sure he felt at home. George became a friend, a regular in our backyard and had clearly developed a love for hockey. Years later, George’s love for the game was inherited by his son Greg. Greg Zanon ended up playing eight years in the NHL. I like to think my brother had something to do with that.
As the years went by, Dave got married and divorced. No kids. He spent a lot of his time in the nightclub/bar business which was the domain of another of my brothers, Gary. Along the way, Dave’s body broke down and he stopped playing sports. But he never stopped following them, watching them, loving them. A true fan. He’d even stop by Port Moody Arena on a regular basis to check out a minor hockey game involving his nephew Quinn, my son.
And then, starting last summer, came an avalanche of news. Cancer. Radiation treatments. Victory. The disease had been defeated. Or so we thought. Dave found out on Boxing Day the cancer had metastasized. It had spread throughout his body.
I have a fabulous life. Gorgeous wife. Gorgeous kids. Solid friends. A beautiful home. A broadcasting career that has allowed me to travel to places and witness events I thought were out of my reach. And I owe it all to my hero, my brother, the person who introduced me to sports.
Dave Taylor passed away Friday. He was 62-years old.
And to him I say thanks. From the bottom of my heart. From the depths of my soul. From every coarse hair of my moustache. Movember has been extended.