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LabovitchesBy HARVEY ROSEN On Tuesday January 16th, late in the  morning, I received a phone call from sports fan Gerry Finkle, an avid reader of our publication, who duly informed me that MAX LABOVITCH had passed away and that the funeral was would be later that day.


Of course, I was remorseful to hear the news, but grateful to have received the scoop in time for me to rush and attend the funeral so that I might pay my respects to the family in mourning. Max was only two days short of his 94th birthday.
It was apparent that the father and grandfather was well loved, admired, and respected by his family. Four of the adult children spoke and you could hear a pin drop as the assembled crowd listened intently.
Cantor Tracy Greaves led the funeral service in her usual professional manner.
Max had passed on many of his admirable traits and values to the family and, of course, much was shared about his strength and sense of humour. Not to mention his celebrity status as a pro hockey player, which included a five-game call-up with the NHL New York Rangers in 1943-44, as well as having played in multiple games in the American Hockey League with the New Haven Eagles.
Labovitch, a forward, who spent three seasons with the  Mercurys of the International Hockey League, also did time with teams like the Los Angeles Ramblers of the Western International League where he had his most prolific season with 24 goals and 20 assists in only 42 games. The majority of this paper’s younger readership can’t really appreciate how much of an immense challenge it was to attempt to attract major league scouts in the 40s and 50s when Max played in the minors.
Contemplate this factoid if you will then: Players at that time rarely surfaced to the NHL because there were only six teams of what is known today as the original six: Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Detroit Red Wings.
That number remained until the league expansion doubled in 1967 and now 50 years later the number has swelled to 31. So, in Max’s time opportunities were about as rare as mine would be of starring in a motion picture with Meryl Streep.
Max’s older brother, Lou, who was born 100 years ago on March 3rd, 1917, was also quite an athlete, who played right-wing and obviously endured similar frustrations and disappointments.
He played in six leagues over the course of his career: Saskatchewan Senior, Pacific Coast, AHL, United States Hockey League, the Western International and Western Hockey League (of which Winnipeg was once a member with the Warriors (1955-59).  Fans here had the opportunity to see players such as Billy Mosienko, a former Chicago Blackhawk legend who was then on his way down. There were also the likes of Eric Nesterenko, Danny Summers, Ed Chadwick and Hugh Barlow.
It’s a testimony to Labovitch, whose career included a total of 116 games in the AHL with the New Haven Eagles and Philadelphia Rockets, that he was so talented because we are all familiar with the calibre of play of the aforementioned league having had the Moose for multiple years here in Winnipeg.
Then there is brother number three, Irv Labovitch, with whom I was very close, having taught with the gentleman at Isaac Newton for about a decade. He was a first class science teacher who came to us from Aberdeen School.
I reconnected with my walking partner - with whom I walked to and from school four miles daily regardless of the weather- at Max’s funeral and we reminisced about the good old days. He’s 91 years of age now. Quite a gene pool the family has, don’t you think?
Did the genial gent play hockey too? Indeed he did. He was one of the top players at the Juvenile and Junior levels in the city. I believe the team located in Winnipeg’s north end was the Excelsiors. The opponents usually came out second best.
I never saw Irv play, but I remember when we had a student-teacher game at the CPAC arena located near the foot of the Arlington bridge. Few kids skipped school on that day and the arena was packed.
I recall the game as if it were yesterday. The 14 and 15 year-old kids who played Bantam hockey were very good, but the teachers prevailed. How did they manage that? Well, Al Kozak the physical education teacher had played junior hockey in Saskatchewan and Labovitch who, like Kozak, was in his early 50s, were the two stars of the contest.
There is little doubt in my mind that had Irvin not decided to gain a degree in education, he would have followed the same path as did his brothers into pro hockey.
The writer, a Jewish Winnipegger, is a former school teacher, and covers football and hockey for Canadian Press and Broadcast News.
Keep in touch with Sporting Touch. Send news about Jewish sports to Harvey Rosen, 360 Scotia Street, Winnipeg, Man., R2V 1W7, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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#1 Max LabovitchAriel Neshama Lee 2018-02-07 05:08
I found it interesting to learn of these hockey pros from our community. There seems to be a big gap in time from when Max played hockey in the 40's to what would be retirement age. I am just wondering what his post hockey pro career was. There was nothing in the article about it.

Ed. note: If you want to read more about Max Labovitch's post-hockey career read his obituary, which is also posted to this website under "Obituaries".
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