Memorable Manitobans: Robert J. “Bob” Picken (1932-2019)
Born at Winnipeg on 24 September 1932, his interest in sports began at an early age. He curled while in high school at St. John's High School. He joined the Valour Road Curling Club as a junior and spent his lifetime as a Valour Road member. He won eight club championships and lost the Manitoba Men's Curling Championship final in 1963. He was a catcher with the Elmwood Giants for 10 years and won the Manitoba Juvenile crown in 1951.
He took journalism training at Michigan State University (1951). His long career in broadcasting began at CKY Radio in the 1950s and continued at CJOB (1965-1969) and CBC (1969-1990). Through the 1960s, he was the voice of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and he covered 16 Grey Cup championships, four Olympic Games, and 34 curling championships. He freelanced from 1993 until retirement in 2008. He was a founding member of the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association in 1955 and was the first World Curling Federation Media Relations Director. He produced the Olympic curling promotional film “Road to the Olympics” and was producer-commentator for 14 Uniroyal World Junior films. He won two Scotty Harper Awards for curling reporting from the Canadian Curling Reporters. He was recognized in every curling rink with his unmistakable voice.
He joined the executive of the Valour Road Curling Club in 1955 and served as it President (1960-1961). In 1961 he was elected to the Manitoba Curling Association executive council and served as President (1972-1973). In 1973, he joined the Canadian Curling Association and served as their representative to the International Curling Federation for eight years. He was the CCA's International Chairman (1977-1981) and served on the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame development committee (1972-1985). He served on an athletic committee of the Manitoba Centennial Corporation. When the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame and Museum was formed in 1987, he served as its first President and was a director (1987-1993).
He umpired in Winnipeg midget, juvenile, and junior baseball leagues and was President of the Manitoba Junior Baseball League (1962-1965). In 1965, he was chaired the national junior tournament in Winnipeg. Among other volunteer commitments, he served as media chairman of the 1970 Winnipeg Brier Committee, vice-chairman of the 1978 Winnipeg Silver Broom Committee, and chairman of the bid committee that secured the 1991 World Curling Championship in Winnipeg.
In recognition of his contributions to sports in Manitoba, he was made an Honourary Life Member of the Valour Road Curling Club (1972), Manitoba Curling Association (1974), and Portage Curling Club. He was inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame, Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame (1998), Manitoba Golf Hall of Fame, Winnipeg Blue Bombers Hall of Fame, Canadian Curling Association Hall of Fame (2002), Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame (2011), Canadian Football Hall of Fame, World Curling Hall of Fame, and Order of Manitoba (2017).
He died at Winnipeg on 30 January 2019, survived by his three children from a first marriage and his second wife Barbara.
“Picken signs off,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 November 2007, page 29.
“Last of that great old generation of sportscasters,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 January 2019, page A8.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 2 February 2019, page B8.
Website, Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame.
Website, Canadian Curling Hall of Fame.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough and Rick Mutton.
Page revised: 14 November 2022