Linda Moore says she has fond memories of curling in Charlottetown.
The former Canadian and world women’s curling champion was a member of the Lindsay Sparkes rink that finished second to Manitoba’s Connie Laliberte at the 1984 Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Charlottetown Forum.
“We had a great team which made it to the semi so I have very fond memories of Charlottetown,’’ said the former curler turned broadcaster.
Moore went on to win the Scotties and the world championship the next year before retiring from the game after capturing the gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games. Curling was still a demonstration sport in those Games.
She joined The Sports Network (TSN) in 1989, working her first Scotties in Kelowna, B.C., and hasn’t looked back since.
Moore became part of a legendary team at the network that included play-by-play caller Vic Rauter and Ray Turnbull. Turnbull retired last year and has been replaced by former Brier and world champion curler Russ Howard.
The sport has soared on popularity in the 25 years that TSN has been televising the sport.
“I think one of the great things about curling is that we feel we’re just friends,’’ Moore said. “We’re friends with the curlers and we’re friends with the people at home and we want to present them with the game the best way that we can.’’
Howard, who celebrated his 55th birthday in Charlottetown on Saturday, said the switch from curler to broadcaster has been an adjustment.
“It’s tough because Ray was Johnny Carson, right?’’ Howard said, referring to Turnbull’s popularity. “He was the guy who brought the sport to everybody’s living room for 25 years but it’s a lot of fun. Vic is such a professional and Linda is so prepared, it’s unbelievable. I think if (Vic and I) both dropped dead Linda could do the show by herself.’’
Known for his gravelly voice on the ice, Howard said the toughest part has been knowing when to talk on TV and when not to.
“It’s the timing — making sure you’re not in Vic’s way when he’s introducing the players throwing the rock and he (calls the rock) as it comes into the rings so you’ve got a timeframe in there which Linda and I have to split.’’
Other than that, it’s no different than playing — know who the players are, what they’ve done in the past, what their tendencies are, what their percentages are and how the team reached the Scotties.
Rauter said TSN has been good to curling but the sport has been equally good to the network.
“There wasn’t a lot of programming in those early days (of TSN),’’ Rauter said. “Curling was good for TSN because it helped fill some programming. In turn, TSN was good for curling because, suddenly, the game was getting the kind of exposure it would only get on weekends prior to TSN.’’
Curling consistently ranks third in ratings on the network, behind hockey and Canadian football but there are times, with the right matchup, it outdraws both.
“I’ve often thought people will say that hockey is the lifeblood of our country but, you know what, the heart of our country is curling because there are quite a few communities we go where there isn’t a hockey rink but there is a curling club.’’
Rauter and Moore admit moving forward without Turnbull has been different.
“Of course I miss Ray. We are terrific friends and he was a terrific teammate up in the booth,’’ Moore said.
Rauter said what he, Moore and Turnbull had was lightning in a bottle.
“We had a really great relationship to the point where we knew each other inside out,’’ Rauter said. “I think very quickly in the few events we’ve done, Russ has fit in very well and we don’t step on each other but it’s different.’’
Rauter isn’t sure what the future holds but he’ll be delivering his signature ‘Make the final’ call for a few more years.
“Curling is part of TSN’s future for at least four more years and I’d like to do it four more years.’’
Linda, Russ And
Vic At A Glance
u Linda Moore skipped her team to the 1985 Scotties Tournament of Hearts title and to the 1985 women’s world championship.
u Moore retired from curling after leading her team to the gold medal in the 1988 Winter Olympics (demonstration sport at the time).
u Moore joined TSN in 1989.
u Russ Howard has appeared in 14 Briers, winning the national men’s curling title twice and the world men’s curling title twice.
u Howard did some work with TSN in 2001 at the Brier before the network asked him to come on full time two seasons ago to work the morning draws. This is his first season as part of the main broadcast crew.
u Howard’s younger brother, Glenn, will represent Ontario for the sixth time in a row at this year’s Brier next month.
u Vic Rauter has been with TSN since 1985, covering mostly auto racing, curling and soccer since 1986 as well as hockey, baseball, bowling, squash, volleyball, equestrian and skiing.
u Before joining TSN, Rauter was a sportscaster at CBC. In 1999, he was nominated for a Gemini Award as Canada’s top sportscaster, and was inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 2006.