Longtime Manitoba sportscasting legend Bob Picken dies at 86

The man known by many Manitobans as the voice of sports in this province has died.

Province's sports fans lose treasured link to 'golden age of broadcasting'

Even well into his 80s, Manitoba broadcasting legend Bob Picken remained comfortable with a microphone in his hand. (TheGreyOwl.ca)

The man known by many Manitobans as the voice of sports in this province has died.

Bob Picken, 86, died on Wednesday afternoon at Riverview Health Centre in Winnipeg with his wife Barbara at his side.  

Picken spent most of his life reporting on sports in Manitoba, including more than two decades at the CBC, where he was the voice of the Grey Cup for 15 years. During his time as a broadcaster, he covered the birth of the Jets in the WHA and their move to the NHL. 

He's perhaps best known for his extensive coverage of curling at the local, national and international levels. He served a term as president of the Manitoba Curling Association.

Picken received the Order of Manitoba in 2017, when he was recognized for his career and contributions to the Manitoba sports community.

"Our family were very, very proud of that fact he was recognized. Even for himself it came out of nowhere," said Bob Picken Jr., son of the late broadcaster.

"It was very well deserved based on how much he has given back."

Picken is survived by his wife Barbara, kids Bob Jr., Shane and Kelly, as well as six grandchildren and one great grandchild.

While for some he is considered a great sportscaster, his namesake son wants people to remember that family always came first.

When you start hearing people talk about his voice, you recognize how special it was.- Bob Picken Jr.

"First and foremost, he was a family man, when he {would} spend time it was very special," said Bob Jr. 

"I would like him to be recognized as a individual who gave back to the community, not just the sports community."

Bob Jr. said he never understood the level of fame his father had risen to.

"When you grow up with him, there's different points when you realize who he was to the sporting world," he said. 

"When you start hearing people talk about his voice, you recognize how special it was." 

Curling

While the NHL and CFL came calling, his son said curling remained his dad's true love.

"The proudest thing I have about him, was that he wasn't only committed to professional sports. He was a very big believer in promoting amateur sports," said Bob Jr.

"He always had a good focus on the local scene when it came to curling." 

Resby Coutts, the former president of CurlManitoba, believes there may never be someone like Picken again.

"I don't know if the new, young broadcasters might ever achieve the fame and legendary status Bob acquired," Coutts said.

"He was a pride back to the golden age of broadcasting and media." 

Coutts says the reason Picken was adored in the curling community was because he was a high-level player who brought first-hand knowledge to the game.

"In 1963, he was just within a win of representing Manitoba at the Brier for the Canadian men's championship," he said. 

"He played at a high level, and that gave him the respect of the competitors. 

In working alongside him for years, Coutts said when it come to his work, Picken always made sure curling was getting covered.

"He made sure curling was acknowledged as much as other high-level sports, he kept curling in the forefront," he said.

"He was a great PR person for the sport."

Legacy

For a stalwart like Picken, who spent the better part of a half a century covering sports across the country, Coutts says his legacy is the people he mentored.

"I would point to dozens of broadcasters and journalists who came under his influence," said Coutts.

"They more than anything are his legacy."

Bob Picken Jr. says what he did for others in the industry is telling of the character his father had.

"Hearing the young broadcasters talk about how much he helped them through, welcome them in to the broadcasting world," said Picken Jr. 

"That says a lot about the man."