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Roar of the Rings

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Peg still the cradle of competitive curling

Rich history of game in Manitoba one reason city hosting Oly trials

Posted: 11/30/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Bob PICKEN will always remember when Winnipeg was selected to host its first Air Canada Silver Broom in 1978.

The world curling championship for men's teams was considered a natural fit for Manitoba.

 

"A man from Air Canada, very famously when Winnipeg was awarded the Silver Broom for 1978, got up on a stage in Duluth about three years earlier," Picken recalled.

"And he said, 'The world curling championship, the Air Canada Silver Broom, is going to the cradle of competitive curling, Winnipeg, Manitoba.' "

The former longtime CJOB and CBC radio broadcaster said that reputation was likely based on the fact Manitoba rinks had claimed the most Brier championships.

Manitoba's men's teams had won 19 Brier titles from 1927 to 1975.

Even today, the total number of Brier winners from Manitoba sits at 27, with Alberta next at 25.

Manitoba has hosted a number of high-profile men and women's curling championships since that Silver Broom, with next month's Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings right up there.

And when Winnipeg was awarded the Dec. 1-8 Canadian Olympic curling trials for men and women, the announcement again keyed on the province's curling history.

"This is home to so many of the greatest legends of the game," host chair Mitch Tarapasky said.

Picken, 81, was inducted as a builder into the Manitoba, Canadian and world curling halls of fame. Although he retired from broadcasting after the Brier and world curling championships in 2008, he still keeps his fingers in the sport as chairman for two senior leagues.

He stopped curling two years ago because of knee problems, but will be volunteering in the media workroom at the Roar of the Rings.

"I still get a kick out of watching curling," Picken said. "It's been with me all my life, virtually, and it's in my blood and never does leave you."

Picken is just one of many Manitobans who have left their mark on curling.

Some facts about Manitoba and Canada's rich curling history, culled from the Canadian Curling Association and the Library and Archives Canada:

-- Depending on the source, the curling stones or "irons" used in Canada starting in 1760 were made out of melted cannonballs or metal-rimmed hubcaps of gun carriages, with handles inserted. They would later be replaced by granite.

-- Formed in 1807, the Montreal Curling Club was the first club outside of Scotland.

-- The first curling club in Western Canada was the Manitoba Curling Club, which began in 1876. The losers of the first match at the club had to donate a barrel of oatmeal to a local hospital.

-- In an 1879 game between Winnipeg's "city fathers" and "ordinary people," the citizens won and the aldermen had to give the victors an oyster dinner, an expensive meal at the time.

-- The Manitoba Curling Association was formed in 1888 and is now called CurlManitoba. Its bonspiel is the biggest and longest running in the world.

-- The first women's curling club started in Montreal in 1894.

-- Manitoban George Cameron, president of W. L. Mackenzie and Co., the western representative of the Macdonald Tobacco Co., dreamed of connecting curling competition across Canada and became a key organizer of the first Macdonald Brier, held in 1927 in Toronto and won by Nova Scotia's Murray Macneill.

-- Four U.S. and four Canadian men's teams entered the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics as a demonstration sport. The Manitoba team skipped by William H. Burns won gold.

-- Senator John T. Haig of Winnipeg, with encouragement from two-time Brier champion Gordon Hudson of Manitoba, helped form the Dominion Curling Association in 1935, the forerunner to the CCA. Haig was the MCA president from 1912-13 and the DCA president from 1935-38.

-- Hudson's back-to-back Brier victories in 1928-29 started a five-year string of titles for Manitoba teams, the longest run by a province.

-- Winnipeg hosted the first Brier held outside Toronto in 1940.

-- The Canadian Ladies' Curling Association was formed in 1960. The first national Dominion Diamond D (now the Scotties) was held the following year in Ottawa and the Saskatchewan rink of Joyce McKee won. Manitoba's Peggy Casselman won the province's first title in 1965.

-- After 125 years, the MCA Bonspiel (now called the Manitoba Open) will welcome female and junior teams in 2014 and include a shorter category.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2013 C8

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