On the basketball court in the 1970s, Bruce Sheen was a dominant player at La Salle Secondary School, St. Lawrence College and in men’s leagues across Ontario.
When he played for the St. Lawrence Big Blue, he used his tall frame to battle for balls under the basket and his size and skills earned him the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association scoring championship all four years he played.
Now Sheen, who will turn 65 in June, is in the midst of another battle: the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Sheen, along with other local athletes and coaches — Brad McFarlane, Ken Tallack, Gord McLellan and Adrien “Tic” Langlois — were introduced on Tuesday at the Kingston and District Sports Hall of Fame annual luncheon at the Invista Centre.
Sheen’s son Van agreed to open up about his father’s disease and how the family is coping with Bruce’s Alzheimer’s, which was diagnosed more than three years ago.
“We’re all super happy with how he’s dealing with it.” Van said. “All the humour is still there, all those old memories. When he runs into the guys at these sporting events, he knows all of them and what sport they played. The challenges are all about what happened today, stuff like that.
“We’re just really proud of him for doing really good and keeping the physical exercise going with big daily walks and socializing. Sometimes he tries to tell a story, but it doesn’t quite come out, but he’s got his happy self and sense of humour there.”
Sheen said his future induction is an “absolute honour.”
“It doesn’t hurt,” Sheen said about his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. “It just gets me a bit mixed up. That’s why he [Van] is always here.”
“My dad does benefit from a really good support network,” Van said. “My stepmom Shelley [Mackenzie] is a fantastic caregiver. There’s also my brother and I and my mom [Terrie], my dad’s ex-wife, who wherever we can help Shelley, we’ll be there.
“This has been a really great chunk of positivity. We all know about dad’s standout athleticism, but it’s really nice to have the community recognize that. It’s something that he’s spent a lot of his life doing.”
After Sheen finished his playing career, he dedicated himself to coaching and organizing in the Knights of Columbus Basketball League and the Pacers Basketball League.
“When chatting with the other inductees, it becomes evident that it’s not just the athletic prowess that’s being recognized. It’s the contribution to the community,” Van said.
“I know I’ve got a fantastic dad and he’s a fantastic person and it’s really nice to know the community recognizes that as well. He’s got lots of people to hang out in a given week and everyone loves spending time with dad.”
McFarlane, 41, who is going into the hall for his outstanding tennis career as a youth, drove eight hours from his home in Ann Arbour, Mich., with his son, Jack, to be at the luncheon.
He plans to attend the induction dinner early next month with his entire family, his wife, Carolyn, daughters Mallory and Sydney, and Jack, as well as his parents and brother Scott.
He’ll be joining his dad, John, in the hall. He was inducted in 2013.
“It’s fantastic, a super-great honour for me and a really neat thing to be joining my dad in the hall of fame and something I’m really excited about,” McFarlane said.
McFarlane said Canada is getting more respect in tennis with the young Canadian stars on the world stage.
“With the emergence of [Denis] Shapovalov and [Andrea] Andreescu, Canadian tennis is really having some great results on the international scene at big tournaments like Wimbledon and others you’re seeing on TV,” he said.
McFarlane said his kids play tennis now, but he just plays with them.
“Myself, I don’t get out on the court that much, but I follow tennis very closely, still love the sport, and I love following the Canadian players. I’ll never stop following tennis; it’s part of me at this point.”
Ken Tallack is the first hall of fame inductee from the local martial arts community.
“I’m so pleased to be the first and I hope I opened the door for others to follow,” he said. “We have some amazing martial arts practitioners here in Kingston who have flown under the radar for years, and I’d love to see them being recognized this way.”
Tallack still teaches martial arts at his dojo on Princess Street in Kingston’s west end.
Tallack has had hundreds of children go through his dojo over the years, and he always wonders who will be the next martial arts star or who will coach others far into the future.
“Who is going to be the one to pick it up and carry on?” he said. “How is this going to impact each little one I’m talking to? It’s always in my mind.”
Langlois and McLellan are going into the hall after long careers as high school football coaches — Langlois with the Kingston Blues and McLellan with the Bayridge Blazers and Sydenham Golden Eagles.
The induction dinner will be Friday, May 3, at the Ramada Inn Hotel and Conference Centre at 33 Benson St.
The five men being inducted bring the total number to 178 since the hall’s inception in 1995.