Mr. Curling to bow out

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

Every Monday a Sun staffer gets to know a sports figure a little better in Up Close. This week, Kirk Penton goes into the hack with Manitoba's Mr. Curling, Bob Picken, who is preparing to leave his post as Manitoba Curling Tour co-ordinator next year. Nearly 200 people threw him a surprise party on Friday night in Morris to thank him for all he's given to the sport.

The Sun: You're not really leaving, are you?

Picken: No. I'm going to be around.

TS: You can't leave. Is that it?

BP: They don't want me to. But I've often felt that to get out of an obligation, that the best way to do that is to get a replacement and get him schooled.

TS: So you will still be at most MCT events next year?

BP: I will be at all events next year.

TS: But you'll have your protege, Resby Coutts, with you?

BP: Yes, he'll be coming on.

TS: So it'll be a farewell tour?

BP: I felt I had a farewell tour with the broadcast thing last spring, which was very flattering, very nice. It makes you feel pretty warm and fuzzy afterwards and you've done something that has made a contribution to the curling scene. Hopefully it will be the same thing.

TS: You stopped doing the radio reports. How much has that eased the load this winter?

BP: Quite a bit. Particularly on Friday and Saturday night, at half past 12 or quarter to one in the morning, phoning to get results so that you could do a report in the morning. Yeah, I don't miss that part of it.

TS: What was your first curling assignment?

BP: I started at CJOB on the first of March in 1965. On Wednesday of that first week Cliff Gardner, the program director at CJOB, said, 'Get packed. You're going to Saskatoon. Terry Braunstein is hot. He's doing well in the Brier. You get out there.' So three days after I started at 'OB I had my first curling assignment.

TS: What was the best game you saw?

BP: That's hard, but one immediately springs to mind. That was the final between Kerry Burtnyk and Dale Duguid in Selkirk in 2001. The curling in that one was truly spectacular. Some of the shots were just fabulous.

TS: In how many countries have you covered curling?

BP: I haven't counted them, but a few. The United States and Canada, obviously, and then Scotland many times. Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, France. Those are seven I can think of.

TS: You've watched a lot of curling. You're not sick of it?

BP: No, I still watch games and I still admire the skill level and the curlers, the way they play the game. The game has changed a bit. The skill factor has gone up, because I think curling at the top end is much better now than it was. It's heresy to say it's better than in Ernie Richardson's days, but ice conditions have improved the game immeasurably. I still enjoy watching.

TS: You lost the provincial men's final as a skip in 1963 ...

BP: It was a best-of-three series, and I got whacked in two straight by Hersh Lerner.

TS: Are you thinking of making another run at it this year?

BP: (laughs) No. I curl in the 70-plus bonspiel at St. Vital. We won some money. And then there's a spring spiel that I go into at Assiniboine Memorial. And we play every Wednesday morning in the Valour Road Senior League.

TS: You'll never leave the curling scene, will you?

BP: I don't think so. As long as I'm alive and breathing. It's been my life, and I've enjoyed it thoroughly in all respects. I've made friends all around the world. You need support from your family, and I've had that. I've been lucky that way. I thoroughly enjoy it.


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