This week, one of the icons of boom time snooker...

Kirk Stevens was snooker’s man in the white suit: a stylish, entertaining Canadian who will forever be associated with the 147 he made at the 1984 Masters and then a sad, drug addicted, fall from grace.

Good looking and sporting a white suit, he resembled John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever during the game’s rock ‘n’ roll years of the 1980s.

He reached as high as fourth in the world rankings and was a Crucible semi-finalist in 1980 and 1984.

Indeed, he came close both times to reaching the final, losing 16-13 to Alex Higgins and then 16-14 to Jimmy White.

Stevens was among a varied cast of characters who flourished in snooker’s boom period and made up a kind of holy trinity of Canadian players alongside Cliff Thorburn and Bill Werbeniuk who together won the World Team Cup in 1982.

Stevens’s 147 at Wembley in 1984 rates as one of the most exciting maximum breaks ever seen, given the time – there had only previously been two on TV – and the atmosphere, his opponent being London’s favourite, White.

The actor Donald Sutherland was in town and this was the first frame of live snooker he had ever seen.

He must have wondered if the crowd got up and cheered to the rafters after every frame.

It was an iconic moment of the 1980s boom, but life would take a darker turn for the popular Stevens.

In 1985, he played South African Silvino Francisco in the British Open final. During a break in play, Francisco accused Stevens in the toilet of being ‘high as a kite’ on drugs.

He made off the record allegations to a journalist which were tape recorded and then reported.

Eventually, Stevens confessed to a newspaper that he was ‘hopelessly addicted’ to cocaine. The paper paid for his treatment in a drug rehabilitation clinic in Toronto.

This was a private problem played out on the front pages of the national press.

It was an addiction that almost cost him his life and eventually cost him his professional career.

Stevens drifted down the rankings and eventually dropped off the tour in 1993.

He headed back to Canada and undertook a number of jobs, as varied as a car salesman and lumberjack.

Stevens re-qualified in 1998 through winning the North American play-off and spent one more season on the circuit but could not recapture former glories.

Now 50, he still plays and last year won the Canadian Championship, which enabled him to play in the IBSF World Amateur Championship.

If a seniors tour ever got off the ground, Stevens would be a popular draw.

For all his problems, he contributed to a large degree in the excitement of that golden time when snooker ruled the TV airwaves.


Anonymous said...

Kirk was one of the game's true characters. They don't make 'em like that any more!

kimball said...

He did quite well in the IBSF in

Got through to the knockout and rolled in a century.

His technique those days seems to take a lot of energy.

It was odd to watch him live and
simultanusly watch the 147 on the mobile!

A wonderful bloke, very decent and
levelheaded.One of the true legends
for sure!

Anonymous said...

Yes I remember the furore when he played Silvino in the British Open final.
Silvino was apparently so anti-drugs that he felt compelled to not only threaten Stevens (at a time in the match where Kirk was playing well) but also to tell his story to the press afterwards.
Funny how life turns out though, considering that Francisco went to prison a few years later.
Cant for the life of me remember what his crime was.
Kirk however, was/is a great guy who harmed nobody but himself.

Dave H said...

To be fair to Francisco, he claimed the comments that were reported had been made off the record.

Dave H said...

Incidentally, the Francisco v Stevens final was something like the fifth most watched match of all time in the UK.

Those were the days!

Anonymous said...

The good ol' days when we had characters in the game.

My children think that I'm telling them fairy-stories when I try to describe those times.

Anonymous said...

its no different to now..

the difference was in the 80s you saw them all the time because they reached the latter stages often.

dave these are the days but unfortunally people for whatever reason hasent woken up to that fact.

Alain (not Robidoux) said...

Kirk was (and still is) quite a character and a very fine player indeed, but him winning the last Canadian championship says a lot about the state of snooker in this country... As a Canadian and a great lover of the game, i feel a bit sad about this.

Donal said...

There was a fairly lengthy interview with Stevens in the Observer Sport Monthly magazine a few years ago (it's probably still available from their website). If I recall correctly, Stevens gave very strong indications that his drug problems are not entirely a thing of the past, though for obvious reasons he couldn't be too explicit about his current situation. Shame really, he seems like a really down-to-earth guy (despite the white suit).