Renowned Manitoba sportscaster, known for knowledge of curling, dead at 86

WINNIPEG — Bob Picken, the Winnipeg-based sports reporter and colour commentator whose career spanned more than five decades, has died.

Picken died Wednesday at the age of 86.

His career began at CKY in the 1950s and by the time he called it quits in the late 2000s, he had been inducted into most every provincial sports Hall of Fame, and the Order of Manitoba.

Picken’s sports coverage included a stint as the voice of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with CJOB in the 1960s, as well as CBC Radio’s voice of the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup during the 1970s and ’80s.

He also covered 32 men’s and 16 women’s world curling championships, and 31 Briers.

Picken is survived by his wife, Barbara his sons, Shane and Bob. Jr. his daughter, Kelly and his grandchildren and great-grandchild.

“I think Bob was the last of that great old generation of sportscasters. One of the things that made him so great was he had the magnificent voice,” said Resby Coutts, former chairman of Curling Canada and a personal friend.

“Not only was there that voice, but he also had a very strong work ethic. Even late into his career, I never saw him do an ad lib on the radio. It was always a written or typed script.”

Coutts said what stood out about Picken was his precise memory and knowledge of the history of curling, although he said the same proved true for every sport his friend covered.

“Most of the guys who followed behind him were in awe of his memory. He could bring forth facts from 17 years ago that paralleled a current situation. He was able to weave a story that connected what was happening in the moment to legends of the past.”

Picken is a member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame, Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame, Manitoba Golf Hall of Fame, Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, Curling Canada Hall of Fame, Canadian Football Hall of Fame and World Curling Hall of Fame.

“My father did not take those accolades for granted. He was quite honoured to be inducted into those halls of fame, particularly because of the other people who were there. I think he was humbled to be recognized alongside those people,” his son Bob Jr. said Wednesday.

“He dedicated himself to the sports scene in Manitoba, Canada, the world — whether it was curling, golf or baseball. I think people have a lot of respect for people who have dedicated such energy to giving back to the community,” he said.

There was an outpouring of condolences posted Wednesday evening to social media. Coutts said he thinks it speaks to the kind of man Picken was, and the impact he had on his community.

“I think it says everything you need to say about a man when people want to speak to the fact that they will miss him. I would suggest that many people may never have even met him, but they felt they knew him because he was a part of their life,” said Coutts.

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