Life is a little less perfect with the loss of Vic Peters

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In a perfect world, all athletes would be like Vic Peters—respectful, kind, obliging, generous with time and words, thoughtful, witty, humorous, appreciative, wise and devoted.

Vic Peters

Vic Peters

But we know this isn’t a perfect world because Vic Peters is dead, less than a month shy of his 61st birthday.

If you have read, or heard, the large volume of tributes paid to Peters in the few hours since he lost the ultimate argument with cancer on Sunday night, you’ll recognize a theme: Great curler, better person.

That is why Peters’ death must be filed under L, for Life Isn’t Fair.

It certainly isn’t fair to Vic’s bride, Deb, or the children, Kassie, Daley and Elisabeth, who had to say goodbye to their husband and father far too soon. And, although he had battled cancer for the past five years, Peters’ passing seemed so sudden. I mean, there he was in Grande Prairie, Alta., only last month, nervously observing daughter Liz Fyfe throw second stones for Kerri Einarson’s Buffalo girls at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

And now the three-time Manitoba and one-time Canadian men’s curling champion is gone, which saddens me and so many others.

Vic Peters and his family have occupied a special place in my heart since March of 1997 when, scant days after I had returned home from covering the Brier in Calgary, an envelope addressed to me arrived at the Winnipeg Sun newsroom. Inside was a card with two hand-written messages, one from Vic and the other from Deb and the kids.

Vic wrote: “Thanks for the support and sense of humour Brier week. I enjoyed chatting with you all week and appreciate that you seem to understand the game and the emotions of the players.”

Deb wrote: “Just a note of thanks for the wonderful job you did at the Brier. You were an endless support to our family and the friendship you extended to us will be remembered always. Sincerely, Deb, Kassie, Daley & Elisabeth Peters.”

What athlete and what athlete’s family does that? Only two in my experience of 30 years in jock journalism—Vic Peters and family, and Wayne Gretzky.

Sportswriters don’t get into the newspaper business for thanks. It truly is a thankless gig in which you are often viewed with contempt and considered a reptilian-like creature with all the charm of a skunk with raised tail. So, to receive that card from the Peters family was…let’s put it this way: I have just three cherished keepsakes from my journalism career—a thank-you letter from Gretzky, and letter of commendation from former Toronto Sun publisher Doug Creighton, and that card from Vic and Deb.

Upon reflection, Vic Peters is among my personal top four, all-time favorite sports people, in lockstep with hockey boss Frank McKinnon, football coach Brian Dobie and player agent Don Baizley. Dobie is the only member of that quartet still taking in oxygen.

There was so much to admire in Vic. I never once conducted an interview with him…we had conversations. They were always enjoyable, thought-provoking, laugh-filled and, in terms of curling know-how, instructional and educational. He was a great quote. One of the best. Ever.

But that which I liked most about Vic was his “realness.” He was as earthy as garden soil and as genuine as a mother’s smile. With Vic, the needle on the BS metre never moved past zero, and after spending time with him you always felt better about yourself. Not many people can pull that off.

As a curler, you’ll often find the name Vic Peters included in the same sentence as Jeff Stoughton and Kerry Burtnyk, which tells you all you need to know about his game. He stood among the tallest of timber during the 1990s. Oddly enough, it was his loss in the ’97 Brier final that stands foremost in my recollections of Peters on the pebble.

It was an epic, riveting to-and-fro for the Canadian men’s crown between two of the game’s heavyweights, Peters and Kevin Martin of Alberta, with more than 17,000 raucous and curling-rabid eye witnesses in the Saddledome at Calgary. Martin ruled the day, but the result might have been different had our Manitoba champion not come perilously close to exhausting his time allotment, releasing his final stone a mere dozen seconds before the clock ticked down to 00:00 in a 10-8 loss.

That Brier final stands as the most entertaining, most exhilarating and most exhausting sporting event I ever covered. At the end, I was emotionally spent because, yes, I had wished for Vic and teammates (and their families) to win. I wanted this nice guy to finish first.

That would have been perfect, though. And we know life isn’t perfect, because in a perfect world we’d still have Vic Peters.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.

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13 thoughts on “Life is a little less perfect with the loss of Vic Peters

  1. Patti, I’ve read so many words about my dad over the past two days. The stories people have taken the time to share have brought so much comfort during a time when it’s hard not to feel alone, wrapped up in my own grief. This Piece has been one of two favourites. After spending an afternoon with him I absolutely felt better about myself and I was so very fortunate that he was so generous with his time. As are my children and my heart breaks for them knowing that they are missing out of knowing the greatest Opa they could have had.

    Thank you for such a fitting tribute
    Kasandra (Kassie) Leafloor

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    • Thank you, Kassie. Many of my thoughts are with you and your family. Your dad was a very special person. He was a beacon of goodness.

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  2. I had the pleasure of serving Vic when working at a friends gas station. (He pumped his own gas, then came in to pay.) I glanced at him with interest as I rang up his purchases, then asked him, “You look familiar, do you play slo-pitch?” (A game I spent much time playing.) He very simply said, “No, it’s probably from curling.” No additional information or admonishment, (like, how couldn’t you know me! After all this was about the height of his curling career!) When he left a co-worker told me who it was, I was embarrassed, but so impressed with Vic’s humble nature and sense of ‘everyman’ about him. He was great, and will be missed.

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  3. Patti – it’s been a long time! I was really touched by your article on Vic. He was a hell of a guy… a family man first and foremost. My heart breaks for his family, especially his grand kids (whom he adored). He was a very special person, and in his quiet way he taught me about what is important in live. He was a fierce competitor, and one of the best athletes I ever knew. We were friends for almost 40 years, neighbours for more than 20 and team mates for 8 years. I will cherish all my memories of Vic. I will truly miss seeing him at his bbq in summers, hearing him enjoying his kids and grand kids in the back yard, and stopping to chat as we “bumped lawnmowers” regularly. He was a wonderful man. Thank you for your article.

    Dan Carey

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    • Thank you, Dan. I can tell you with complete sincerity that the time I spent covering you and the boys at the 1997 Brier was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my 30 years in jock journalism.
      I’ll always remember being wrapped up in the emotion of the event, writing about you boys and feeling the pain your families felt after the final game.
      So thank you for that.
      On a side note, I was so pleased to see Chelsea do so well this year. Wish it had ended on a more positive note, but she’s young and she’ll get another crack at them next year. Nice to see you and Chelsea’s mom looking so young, too. Take care and much kindness to you all.

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  4. A great family man and a great curler and golfer and a really nice guy. All my best to Deb and family and extended family and friends. I feel your pain.
    Donnie Colvin.

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  5. Patti, my nephew sent me a forward titled “good story on Uncle Vic”. Little did I know, in the dark days of this pain a beacon of light would shine through! One of my all time favourite journalist was once again the author of another brilliant piece. It brings me much joy to now be able to follow you on a regular basis. Thank you for your kind words about a man that I have had the privilege, all be it too short, to share life with. No truer words were written…”we know life isn’t perfect” especially now.

    All kinds wishes your way, Deb Peters

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    • Hi Deb. I cannot begin to tell you how much I hurt for you, your children and your grandchildren. I wish there was something I could say or do to soothe your pain, but I fear that simply isn’t possible when the hurt is so raw.
      I’ve never forgotten the friendship you extended at the 1997 Brier, nor shall I ever forget.
      Please know that you and your family are very much in my thoughts, and I wish you all comfort, kindness and love. Take care and hold each other tight.

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  6. My sympathies to the family as well as the curling family…as a former Steinbach curler I was blessed to have met his Mom ,brother, family! Class act and gracious people all the way ! What an example Vic set for all! Thanks Vic! May our heavenly Father be with you;his family,and friends at this time ! God bless!

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  7. As our Head Icemaker for 20 years, Vic Peters meant a lot to the Fort Garry Curling Club and it’s members, garnering a reputation for some of the best curling ice in Winnipeg. More than just an ice maker, Vic was a master at the sport and was always giving back. Always approachable, always thoughtful and sincere, he took the time to understand before giving an honest reply. We’ve had the privilege (not to mention the pleasure) of knowing a great man. The Friendly Fort is a little less friendly now, and while we keenly feel the loss, we know it pales in comparison to what his family and the sport as a whole are feeling. Rest Vic, you always will be missed.

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