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Pick's picks

Radio legend and curling historian lists Brier's most memorable Manitoba moments

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HALIFAX -- At 77, Bob Picken's voice still comes over the phone with the heft and timbre of a radio man through and through.

A request for some help on Manitoba curling history prompts a humble response and then a thorough review of the Bison at the Brier.

Picken covered 35 Briers and his recall of memorable moments at our national curling championship is astounding.

"The 1970 Brier was a great one and every draw well attended. In fact the main sponsor, he was a man named David Stewart of Macdonald Tobacco, couldn't get a seat and had to sit on the media bench. You'll remember him, he used to wear a big fur coat," recalled Picken.

Forced to disappoint him by mentioning I was just two in 1970 and living at my folks' house in Peterborough, Ont., didn't seem to cut me any slack with Picken, who brusquely moved on to the next subject, seemingly uninterested in my age or lame excuses for not knowing more about curling.

Picken worked as a radio reporter at both the CBC and CJOB and, along with covering curling all over the globe, also called 15 Grey Cups on the radio. He's Manitoba's unofficial curling historian and despite his official retirement, is still considered the dean of curling reporters in Winnipeg.

Picken sent us an email with the broad strokes of his top 10 Manitoba moments at the Brier and then we spoke on the phone to get a few more details. Here are Picken's picks in chronological order:

1. Gordon Hudson winning back-to-back Briers in 1928-29 (the only other Manitoba skip to do it was Don Duguid in 1970-71).

2. 1940: the first Brier held outside Toronto, held at Winnipeg's Amphitheatre, when the Brier became a spectator event for the first time, and Howard 'Pappy' Wood put the capper on by winning it.

3. 1949 in Hamilton: Ken Watson's third Brier victory (still tops for a Manitoba skip). Jeff Stoughton has two Briers and is in Halifax this week hoping to equal Watson.

4. 1956 in Moncton: Billy Walsh's last rock extra-end playoff victory over Ontario's Alf Phillips, Sr., with a memorable come-around takeout. (The stone Walsh threw was made into a trophy that still is on display at Winnipeg's Fort Rouge Curling Club).

5. 1958 in Victoria: when Terry Braunstein's "Kid Rink" went all the way to a playoff before losing to Edmonton's Matt Baldwin, leading to a change in CCA rules on minimum age. Curlers must now be 19 to compete in the Brier. Braunstein was 18, Ray Turnbull was 17, Ronny Braunstein was 17 and Jacky Hellemond (brother of longtime NHL referee Andy van Hellemond) was 16.

6. 1962 in Kitchener: Norm Houck losing in a memorable three-way playoff against two of curling's greats, Ernie Richardson of Regina and Hec Gervais of Edmonton.

7. Don Duguid's climactic last shot in 1970 at the Winnipeg Arena to clinch the Brier title, and the roar of a capacity crowd that nearly lifted the roof off the building.

8. The brightest moment came in Halifax in 1981, when Kerry Burtnyk came from behind with three points in the 10th end to beat Al Hackner of Thunder Bay, skipping the youngest team ever to win the Brier. Burtnyk was just 22 at the time.

9. 1996: Jeff Stoughton's superb performance in Kamloops in winning the Brier (his team was even better in capturing the world title later that year in Hamilton), beating Kevin Martin 8-7 in an extra-end final.

10. 1997: Vic Peters finishing as the runner-up to Kevin Martin in the Brier in Calgary. The Martin-Peters final was played before the largest crowd in the history of curling -- 17,024 on March 16, 1997 in the Saddledome.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2010 A32

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