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Johnson, Leo

Year Inducted / Année Intronisé:

2005

Province / Province:

Manitoba

Category / Catégorie:

Builder, Curler, Curling/Builder

Biography / Biographie:

Leo Johnson was a smartly-dressed cigar-smoking, outgoing man who skipped the 1934 Brier winning team of Lorne Stewart, Linc Johnson and Marno Frederickson finishing 7-0 at the Toronto Granite Club in 1934. He also skipped the Manitoba rink of Harry Weremy, Linc Johnson and Bill McKnight to a three way tie for first with Alberta and Northern Ontario at the end of the round robin losing out to the champions from Alberta in sudden death playoffs. Moreover, had there been a Brier in 1944, Leo Johnson’s rink would have been in it as Manitoba champs (the Brier was cancelled due to World War II).

Johnson was born in Winnipeg and as a young man acquired a reputation as a good baseball player. He started to curl with the Deer Lodge Club in 1919 but joined the Strathcona Club in 1926 and stayed there until he died in 1976. He was an exponent of the knock-out game, and he frequently played heavy weight. However, like every great curler, he could make all the shots. That he could draw with the best if he had to was shown in the 1946 Brier, in the eleventh end of his playoff loss to Alberta, when he kept his team in the game with a draw to the four-foot ring to cut his opponents out of a four-ender.

Johnson could be a showman on the ice. For this reason Jack Matheson, who covered curling for the Winnipeg Tribune for many years after the Second World War, once suggested he was an early version of Matt Baldwin of Alberta. Johnson played confidently, even arrogantly. His delivery featured a lengthy slide with his left arm held unusually high. He irritated some spectators, but was appreciated by both teammates and opponents. They liked him because he had both a bubbly personality and the ability to laugh at himself. (excerpted from Curling Capital: Winnipeg and the Roarin’ Game, 1876 To 1988; by Morris Kenneth Mott, John Allardyce)

In 1965, he won the inaugural Canadian Senior Men’s Curling Championship and remains one of only four men — Jim Ursel, Al Hackner, and Pat Ryan — to have skipped winning teams at both the Brier and Canadian senior men’s titles.

Leo Johnson also put his energies into the Executive areas of curling as past president of the Strathcona CC (1934) and past president of the Manitoba Curling Association in 1963-64.  He is an honorary life member of both organizations. He also served 10 years on the Manitoba Curling Association’s Executive Council.