Legendary sports columnist Jim Taylor dies at 82

Sports columnist Jim Taylor was so dedicated that he once covered the 1963 Grey Cup at Empire Stadium in Vancouver, featuring his beloved B.C. Lions, in the afternoon and made it back to Victoria in time to cover a local hockey game that night at the old Memorial Arena on Blanshard Street.

Taylor, who died Monday at his Shawnigan Lake home at the age of 82, began his career at the Daily Colonist when he was still in high school.

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According to retired Times Colonist reporter King Lee, Taylor’s talent was spotted early in journalism class by Vic High English teacher Stan Murphy, who recommended Taylor to Colonist sports editor Jim Tang.

The family had moved west from Nipawin, Sask., and Taylor graduated from Victoria High School in 1955.

Taylor recalled Tang telling him how long his first story should be, in column inches. Being raw, he took a tape measure to that day’s paper to configure his typewriter to write to the exact width of a newspaper column. He was told that would be done for him by the typesetters.

Taylor was so uncertain about his writing gig during the early years that he kept his paper route with the Colonist, delivering his own stories to Island doorsteps every morning.

It was an inauspicious start for a writer who would go on to cover sports for the Colonist for 10 years, for the Vancouver Sun for 13 years, for the Province for 17 years and as a nationally syndicated columnist for the Calgary Sun for six years before retiring in 2001.

Taylor also authored 16 books, including ones on Wayne Gretzky, CFL players Matt Dunigan and Jim Young, World Cup soccer player Bob Lenarduzzi, Olympic high-jumper Debbie Brill, auto racer Greg Moore and Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion Tour. “I loved his delivery — it was so well crafted, and Jim handled the English language extremely well,” said University of Victoria and national basketball coaching legend Ken Shields. “He was very knowledgeable about sports. We are blessed to have read him.”

Taylor wrote an estimated 7,500 columns in his career on a five-times-a-week basis, covering events ranging from the Olympics and Grey Cup to Muhammad Ali fights and the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series.

“Even people who didn’t like sports loved reading him,” said Lee, who first met Taylor at the Colonist. “That’s because Jim didn’t write about sports — he wrote about people, and in such a unique manner that nobody came close to him in Canada as a sports humourist.”

Taylor was inducted into the B.C. and Victoria Sports Halls of Fame and into the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame.

But, according to Lee, Taylor was most proud of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award he received from the Jack Webster Foundation in 2010.

Taylor was predeceased by his wife Deb in 2016, and is survived by son Chris and daughter Teresa.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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