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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.
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.
"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."
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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.
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
The tributes for Ray Turnbull poured in Friday and Olympic champion skip Jennifer Jones was among those praising the man and his legacy.
"He was one of a kind," said Jones, a 10-time Manitoba titleist, five-time national champion and 2008 world women's curling champion. "A truly great man, a lover of the game of curling. I really don't believe curling would be where it is today without Ray Turnbull. We owe him so much...
"We knew that his health wasn't great but we're very surprised that it happened so quickly."
Jones appreciated Turnbull's efforts to foster the spread of curling across Canada and around the world.
"He worked so hard to help it grow and make it grow," said Jones. "He loved the game and wanted to show the world what the game was all about and he did that. I was really fortunate, I was actually able to broadcast with him at a provincial championship... That's one of my highlights, for sure, to be able to learn from the best.
"You couldn't really match his enthusiasm and energy. Curling was very lucky to have him and Manitoba curlers were especially lucky to have him because he helped grow our sport."
Resby Coutts, chair of the board of governors of Curling Canada, said Turnbull was a rare breed.
"He was at a high level in three different aspects of the sport," said Coutts. "It's rare that champions go on to do other things in the sport and made the contributions that he made. Arguably, you could say, he was twice a Manitoba champion, once a Brier champion, so he was a champion but that, I think is the less of his three accomplishments if you compare it with all of his work as an... instructor. He was one of the first to think about the ways to teach the game of curling..."
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Updated on Friday, October 6, 2017 at 12:13 PM CDT: Updated.