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Turnbull a legend on and off the ice

MIKE DEMBECK / CANADIAN PRESS FILES</p><p>Ray watches the 2010 Tim Horton's Brier from the stands.</p>

MIKE DEMBECK / CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Ray watches the 2010 Tim Horton's Brier from the stands.

He was a Winnipeg curling legend, a friend to so many inside and outside the curling community and the man responsible for teaching countless viewers in Canada and across the world the intricacies of the game he loved.

Ray Turnbull was one of a kind.

The former Canadian curling champion, Hall of Famer, instructor and longtime TSN curling analyst died Friday at the Health Sciences Centre after a short battle with cancer. He was 78.

Turnbull’s son, Al, said his father was diagnosed with leukemia just over two weeks ago. He developed pneumonia, “but couldn’t fight it off.

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He was a Winnipeg curling legend, a friend to so many inside and outside the curling community and the man responsible for teaching countless viewers in Canada and across the world the intricacies of the game he loved.

Ray Turnbull was one of a kind.

The former Canadian curling champion, Hall of Famer, instructor and longtime TSN curling analyst died Friday at the Health Sciences Centre after a short battle with cancer. He was 78.

Turnbull’s son, Al, said his father was diagnosed with leukemia just over two weeks ago. He developed pneumonia, "but couldn’t fight it off.

"He went pretty fast. I don’t think we expected it," said Al. "He was a tough SOB. But his health really deteriorated. It’s been a really difficult time. We’ve been getting messages from people everywhere — TSN folks he worked with, people from Sweden and Norway and other parts of the curling world and, of course, a lot from the Winnipeg community. People are pretty shook up. It’s incredible how many people are reaching out."

Turnbull, affectionately nicknamed "Moosie," was born in Huntsville, Ont., moved with his parents to Winnipeg when he was a youngster and considered himself a Manitoban, first and foremost, said Al.

He ran a successful insurance company in Winnipeg for decades but earned fame on the curling ice. He played lead on the Terry Braunstein foursome that won the 1965 Canadian men’s championship but lost the world championship to the United States in Scotland.

A proud member of the Granite club, he was a Manitoba and Canadian curling Hall of Famer with provincial and national titles on his resumé, and was inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame in 2015.

"He will be missed," said Winnipegger Jeff Stoughton, a two-time world titleist and three-time Brier champ.

"A legend on and off the ice, there’s no doubt about it. Especially as a Manitoban."

Turnbull’s broadcasting partner, Vic Rauter, turned to Twitter after hearing the news.

"He loved family..loved life..loved red wine..LOVED curling..my TSN partner for 25 years..Ray Turnbull has passed..heaven now has a lead. RIP," he tweeted.

HANDOUT / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Ray Turnbull, affectionately nicknamed "Moosey," was a Manitoba and Canadian curling hall of famer with provincial and national titles on his resumé. </p>

HANDOUT / FREE PRESS FILES

Ray Turnbull, affectionately nicknamed "Moosey," was a Manitoba and Canadian curling hall of famer with provincial and national titles on his resumé.

After his playing career was done, Turnbull worked with curling instruction programs across Canada, parts of Europe and the United States. At last count, he either taught the game to or coached 17 world champions.

"His impact was wordly and generational. He had this layered impact on people of all ages, whether he was the one who started you out in curling or taught you the game on TV," said Al, 26, who lives in Ottawa and attends law school.

"More than anything else, he grew the game."

He was one of Canada’s most recognizable sports voices, spending 25 years as a TSN curling analyst along with Rauter and Linda Moore, until retiring at the end of the 2009-10 season.

"I wasn’t around for the advent of curling on TV, but he used to say at the beginning they were happy knowing they had a few thousand viewers," said Al.

"By the time they did the 2010 (Winter) Olympics in Vancouver, they had a few million."

During broadcasts, Rauter would play out a few scenarios of the on-ice action, while Moore and Turnbull were the voices of reason. It was a formula that made the trio household names from coast to coast.

Stoughton grew to appreciate Turnbull’s presence and contributions to broadcasting.

"He certainly was Manitoba proud, and whenever we would play one of his cohorts in the booth’s opposition province, he would always wear his yellow jacket, his yellow tie, so everyone knew he was silently cheering for the Manitoba team," he said.

Turnbull helped to change the way curling was, and is, covered on TV, he said.

"He’s going to be mourned and missed," Stoughton said. "He had a certain way about him during his years in broadcasting. He was one of the first to tell it like it is and not sugar-coat it. I think that changed the way a lot of broadcasters had to broadcast. They didn’t have to tiptoe around… who’s going to argue with Ray Turnbull?"

Turnbull’s impact on the game has stood the test of time.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Ray Turnbull (left) and Terry Braunstein were honoured at the Curling Hall of Fame</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / FREE PRESS FILES

Ray Turnbull (left) and Terry Braunstein were honoured at the Curling Hall of Fame

"He was put into our curling Hall of Fame in 1993 and it’s however many years later and he’s still held in high regard in our sport," said CurlManitoba executive director Craig Baker.

"That speaks volumes to the legacy he’s leaving behind. He was still doing some announcing and colour commentary for our provincials on Sportsnet up until two years ago. He was still there, people still liked to hear him."

Turnbull was the lead on Braunstein’s 1958 team, made up entirely of high school students, that almost won the Brier national championship in Victoria. He was part of the team, along with Braunstein, his brother Ron Braunstein and Don Duguid, that won the Macdonald Brier in ’65 and earned a silver medal at the worlds.

Baker paid tribute to Turnbull’s abilities as both a competitor and builder.

"He was one of the first ones who said, ‘We can teach this sport,’ " Baker said. "You don’t just do it, but you can perfect it. That was one of the key things that I learned about him... because he was one of the innovators for that sort of thing. He was one of those that said we need to work at this and we need to get better...

"His impact will live on forever."

A memorial service is planned for Friday, Oct. 13, although final details have not been confirmed.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell and Mike Sawatzky.

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History

Updated on Friday, October 6, 2017 at 12:13 PM CDT: Updated.

October 7, 2017 at 7:43 AM: Updated.

8:22 AM: Photos fixed.

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