Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Old Jets voice shut out of play-by-play jobs

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The man who called Winnipeg Jets games on radio and television for their entire first run in the NHL never got an interview for the second go-round.

Curt Keilback, who joined Ken "Friar" Nicolson in the broadcast booth at the start of the 1979-80 season, said he's both disappointed and mystified about not getting a chance to state his case.

"There was no process (for me). I was never interviewed by any of the parties involved," said Keilback, 62.

He said he contacted Jets owner True North Sports & Entertainment and the radio station contracted to broadcast the games, Sports Radio 1290, and had an agent represent him with TSN, which owns the radio and television broadcast rights.

Keilback said in his mind, he was one of the two best people to apply for the radio and television play-by-play jobs. He said he hasn't been told why he didn't get an interview but he suspects the strings were being pulled in Toronto.

Brian Munz, who called Manitoba Moose games on CJOB for the last five years, and Dennis Beyak, radio voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs, were the successful applicants.

"The most disappointing part was not to be called in for an interview. Whatever was standing in my way, I probably could have clarified it," Keilback said.

Keilback followed the Jets to Phoenix after the 1995-96 season and called every game until his contract wasn't renewed in May 2007. (The press box at Arena bore his name.)

Chris Brooke, 1290's program director, said while the hiring process was shared by his station and TSN, much of the direction on the ultimate decision came from the Toronto-based network.

Keilback was a regular guest on 1290 in spring, when True North was negotiating to buy the Atlanta Thrashers, but hasn't been on since.

"When the story came out that the team was coming back to Winnipeg (on May 31), I did 14 interviews, but not one of them was with (1290)."

Keilback said he appreciated the many hockey fans in Winnipeg who supported his bid for one of the play-by-play jobs through social media, such as Facebook pages and Twitter posts.

"I don't even know who some of them are. I'd like to thank them all, one by one," he said.

So now what? Keilback said he had two dreams growing up. One was to call play-by-play in the NHL. The other was to be a professional golfer.

"Now I better pursue the golf," he said.

He'll still be on the radio calling Manitoba Junior Hockey League games this winter, he's doing a little commercial work, and he landed a pair of small roles in hockey-themed movies shot in Winnipeg. In Goon, a story about a minor-league enforcer in the Maritimes, he plays Red McCauley, the team's play-by-play broadcaster. In the sequel to Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story, he plays a television sportscaster who tears a strip off Harry Sinden, longtime general manager of the Boston Bruins, for firing Cherry in 1979.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 13, 2011 A2

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