Streamway Villa resident Ken Cleverdon overcame the challenges of polio to play hockey.
Resident hockey player's triumphant story
Ken Cleverdon overcame challenges to pursue the sport he lovesJune 13, 2012
COBOURG, Ont. - One of the first things you’ll discover about Ken Cleverdon is that the word “can’t” is not in his vocabulary.
On a warm June afternoon, the Streamway Villa resident sits in the shade outside the Cobourg long-term care home, explaining the challenges he faced as a youngster — and how he never let those challenges interfere with his love of playing hockey.
When he was three years old, Cleverdon, who turns 85 on June 20, contracted polio, which left him with one weak leg. A lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan, Cleverdon wanted nothing more as a youngster than to play hockey.
While he never became a professional player, he spent much of his youth playing his beloved sport in rinks in Toronto’s east end, but this didn’t come easy.
On the table in front of Cleverdon are two photos he’s immensely proud of: one is him as an eight-year-old boy, posing on ice with skates, a hockey stick and Leafs jersey. The second is an almost identical photo — the same pose, complete with hockey stick and Leafs colours — taken more than 60 years later.
Looking at the photos, you’d never know the retired teacher had a disability, which is fitting because Cleverdon never let his bad leg dominate his life.
“A lot of people thought I shouldn’t be playing — they said, ‘We don’t think he should be playing because it’s not fair for him,’ ” Cleverdon, who has lived at Streamway Villa about two years, tells the OMNIway.
“I said, ‘I’m going to show them that I can do it.’ ”
Backing Cleverdon’s decision to play hockey was his supportive family, particularly his father, whom he describes as an “excellent hockey player.”
Once given the chance to play, Cleverdon proved himself equal to the other youngsters who shared his passion for hockey. He scored goals, got assists and, he acknowledges, spent time in the penalty box.
By the 1970s, after he had stopped playing hockey, Cleverdon took his love of Canada’s national sport to another level when he began coaching.
Cleverdon had another wish — to have his story told in the OMNIway. His reason is straightforward: he wants people to know that no matter what challenges they face they can overcome them, the same as he did.
Streamway Villa registered practical nurse Sarah Wilson was the staff member who contacted the OMNIway to inquire about having Cleverdon’s story told.
Cleverdon had initially asked her if there was any way to get his hockey photos published in a newspaper. Wilson told him about the OMNIway and since then Cleverdon has been all smiles, she says.
“This shows it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.”
If you have feedback on this story, please call the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 23, or e-mail deron(at)axiomnews.ca.
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