Ray "Moosie" Turnbull, a Hall of Fame curler who went on to become the long-time face of TV curling on The Sports Network in Canada and for CBS at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, has died. He was 78.
Turnbull passed away on Friday at the Health Sciences Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba, after a battle with leukemia. "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,” Turnbull's longtime TSN play-by-play partner, Vic Rauter, tweeted on Friday morning.
Turnbull was born on July 19, 1939, in Huntsville, Ontario. At age 18, he played in his first Macdonald Briers championship.
Seven years later in 1965, by now known affectionately by his fans as "Moosie," Turnbull won the Canadian curling title when he teamed with Don Duguid and Ron Braunstein. He also won a silver medal at the 1965 Scotch Cup world men's championship in Perth, Scotland.
In 1985, Turnbull went from playing a pro sport that's basically shuffleboard on an ice sheet as four-strong teams deliver 42-pound granite stones from one end to the other, to join the TSN commentating box. For 25 years, he traveled with Rauter and Linda Moore to cities and towns across Canada and internationally, doing the color as curlers swept the ice in front of sliding stones with brooms.
Turnbull and his broadcast team also brought TSN, the country's cable sports channel, Monday Night Football-size TV ratings. "Ray set the standard for curling broadcasting in Canada, and was instrumental in developing and building our world-class curling coverage,” Mark Milliere, senior vp and general manager at TSN, said in a statement.
Part of Turnbull's role as a longtime curling coach and instructor was getting Canadian TV viewers to understand a sport most had never played, and in which interest peaked during the Winter Olympic Games. "A true champion, Turnbull's expertise on and off the ice, his warm nature and distinct charm and personality elevated his craft and made him a fan-favorite for Canadians nationwide," Milliere added.
At the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Turnbull brought this TV analyst skills to CBS, with Jim Nantz on the main anchor desk. With curling hardly a marquee Olympic sport, CBS only used seven minutes of his coverage on the first night of competition, and 12 minutes on the second night.
But a full-page spread in the Houston Chronicle that featured Turnbull quickly gave the U.S. curling team a promotional jolt. "All of a sudden, I wasn't the guy they just threw to at the curling rink. It was 'hey Moosie.' The last day we (CBS) did an hour," he told the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper in 2010, the year he retired from TSN and broadcasting.
Turnbull was inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 1993 and the World Curling Hall of Fame in 2015.