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January 31, 2019

“He was a genuine guy with lots of class” | Remembering Bob Picken

It was the voice that so many remember most about the man – a deep baritone that just simply resonated authority.

Indeed, if Hollywood producers had ever needed a voice of God for a movie, they would have been wise to tap Bob Picken on the shoulder, and no other auditions would have been necessary.

Picken, an icon in the Winnipeg sports scene and at one time the radio play-by-play voice of the Blue Bombers, passed away Wednesday at the age of 86.

A product of the North End, Picken began his media career covering midget and juvenile hockey for the Winnipeg Citizen. He joined CJOB in 1965 as the station’s sports director and provided play-by-play on Winnipeg Junior Jets and broadcasts of Canada’s National hockey team – then based in town – before serving as the voice of the Bombers in the 1960s.

After leaving CJOB for CBC, he was the radio voice of the Grey Cup for 15 consecutive games. Later, he would return to CJOB and become heavily involved in the station’s curling and golf coverage.

“I’ve said this many times, but when I first came to Winnipeg to work, it was intimidating at the time to be working alongside and around Jack Wells, Jack Matheson, Stew MacPherson, Don Wittman and, of course, Pick,” said CJOB’s Bob Irving, the radio voice of the Bombers for most of the years since Picken’s last call. “They were the Big Five as I saw them and I was welcomed by all of them, but Pick in particular.

“He just had a friendly way about him. He was always very kind and very welcoming and willing to offer you advice and never, ever gave you that big-time feeling like he was looking down his nose at you that guys in our business can occasionally wear. Bob was never affected by that. He was a good guy, a great broadcaster and was given that gift of that spectacular voice. It’s one thing to have a great voice, but it’s another to turn it into the kind of effective communicator Bob became.

“He was a genuine guy with lots of class.”

Picken was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1992, the Winnipeg Football Club’s Media Roll of Honour in 1998, and is also in provincial baseball, curling, hockey and golf halls of game, as well as the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

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