HALIFAX -- Sometime in the next month or so a used clothing dealer will have a career day if Ray Turnbull walks through the door.
Turnbull, he of the suits and ties only Don Cherry could love, is planning on ending his 25-year association with TSN as the network's top curling analyst and will no longer have call for the close to 20 jackets and 150 ties he wears on air.
"It's time. I'm tired. I also have an insurance business in Winnipeg. My partner is retiring. I'm not retiring from that business. I have grandchildren in New Zealand and Germany and I have two young boys in university. It's been 25 years," said Turnbull, who broke onto the Canadian curling scene in 1958 as a 17-year-old at the Brier as a member of Terry Braunstein's "Kid Rink" that went all the way to a playoff before losing to Edmonton's Matt Baldwin. "I'm 70, I'm not 40. It's been a great run. TSN has always treated me first class. I'm well paid and they've always taken care of me. They haven't pushed me. They said, 'Moosie, you do what you want to do.' My wife and I think it's time."
Turnbull, along with a slew of sidekicks, including long time co-hosts Vic Rauter and Linda Moore, has taken TSN's curling broadcasts from a notch above lawn bowling in the ranks of TV properties and made it one of the most watched sports in Canadian television.
Canadians have fallen into the habit of flipping on the TV any time of the day during the winter expecting to hear Rauter's exuberant, "Count 'em up." To see the towering Turnbull turned out in sport coats -- solid gold on Monday -- that few men could carry off. And to listen to the measured and insightful analysis of Moore and Turnbull. They have become part of Canadian winters. Like slush, tuques, block heaters and snow shovels -- Turnbull is Canadiana.
"One of the things I am proudest of is wherever I go in this country, people come up to me and say, 'hey, you're the curling guy.' I'd say, 'Oh, you're a curler,' and they'd say, 'No, I just watch,'" says Turnbull, who will do his last event at the end of March from Swift Current at the Women's World Curling Championship. "My friends at the golf course that have never curled tell me they watch now. I think we've taken the game to hundreds of thousands of people. Curling has been my life and I'm glad I've been able to help the game in my own way."
Turnbull says he'll play more golf, help his daughter with their insurance business, spend time with his wife, travel to see his children and grandchildren and maybe even sit back to watch a little curling on TV.
FP: How did you get your start on TSN?
RT: "Gordon Craig started TSN. Labatt's gave him a $13 million or so to start TSN. They decided to do some curling and I threw my hat in the ring. The Canadian Curling Association was against me getting the job. They called Gordon Craig and told him they didn't want me to get the job. He told them, 'First of all, no one tells me who to hire and secondly I think he'll be good.' That was it."
FP: What was your first event on TSN and how did it go?
RT: "It was the Canadian mixed at the Bayview Golf and Country Club in Toronto. That was TSN's first curling event. It was the first year of the company. Don Chevrier was the commentator. We get on the ice to do our opening and he says to me, 'We're tight for time so we're going live.' He does his little intro and then turns to me and says, "Quite frankly I don't now how the (expletive deleted) do they do it? Tell me Moosie, how the (expletive deleted) do they do it?' I froze. I didn't know what to do. And then the whole crew started to laugh. That was my first broadcast with TSN."
FP: You've worked with lots of guys but you and Vic and Linda have been a constant for a long time. Tell us about your start with Vic.
RT: "I got hired and worked with a number of folks the first little while. Then they told me they were hiring one single announcer to do the curling and it was a guy named Vic Rauter. I had never heard of him. They said he was good. So they introduce us and I say, 'Nice to meet you.' But Vic says, "I've met you before. Remember when you were the head umpire at the 1981 World Championship in London and you threw a guy off the ice? That was me.' They were playing the national anthem and this reporter was running around with his cameraman and I walked down to them and said, 'When they play the national anthem, either stand still or get off the goddamn ice.' So that's how we started. We just fit. We've become very good friends. Vic is a very private guy. Sort of a loner. But we've become close and had 25 great years together."
FP: When did Linda come along?
RT: "Linda had won the world championship in 1985 and was on top of the sport when we brought her on. I thought it would work and it did. The interesting thing about our first broadcast with Linda, Vic told this long story about the old days when teams would haul their rocks from place to place to always use the same ones. She turned to me and said, 'You probably remember that.' I turned to her and said, and this was on the air, 'I hope your thighs grow.' That night I'm lying in bed and around three in the morning the phone rings and it's Jim Thompson, vice president of TSN. 'Moosie, that's one of the funniest lines I've ever heard on television. I fell right off the couch. If you ever do it again, you're fired.'
"She laughed. But the switchboard in Toronto really lit up."
FP: Has it all been good?
RT: "No. My family has paid a price for me being away so much. There are things I blame myself for."
FP: What has been the highlight of your broadcasting career?
RT: "The hardest work I've ever done was doing the 1998 Olympics in Nagano for CBS. Jim Nantz and Jim Lampley were the guys on the desk. The studio was in Nagano but the curling was in Karuizawa and it was a 45-minute train ride. They gave me a cameraman and a sound man. I'd do a standup every morning before the curling started, I'd do highlights during the day and then I'd do a closing after it was done. Then I would physically take the tape and get on the train and take it back to Nagano. They had a little bed for me, I'd lay down. Then two-and-a-half hours later when it was edited, they'd wake me up and I'd voice it over. The first night they used seven minutes. The next night they used 12 minutes. The next night I got a phone call from a reporter at the Houston Chronicle. The next day there was this huge front page sports story tacked to the wall. I still have it at the lake. 'Curling: next big sport.' All of a sudden, I wasn't the guy they just threw to at the curling rink. It was 'hey Moosie.' The last day we did an hour."