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The passing of Harvey Rosen marks the end of an era

By BERNIE BELLAN and MYRON LOVE Harvey Rosen, The Jewish Post & News’ longest-serving columnist, passed away last week.
In December 2018 Harvey Rosen wrote his last column for this newspaper. There was nothing, though, in that column to indicate that, after 42 years of writing a regular column, Harvey was retiring.
But, unfortunately the signs that Harvey was in failing health were apparent and so, while I attempted to contact Harvey to see how he was doing after he sent that column, but stopped sending anything else, to ask him whether he was going to be sending another column, to my chagrin, there was no response.
I saw Harvey one more time, in May 2019, when he and Ernie Nairn were inducted as the first two members of the Rady JCC Sportswriters Hall of Fame. He was basking in the moment.
I asked the other long-time columnist for this paper, Myron Love, who had been writing longer for this paper: him or Harvey? Myron said that he had started writing for us in 1982, but Harvey had begun in 1976, so Harvey still has Myron beaten by two years – to date.
I wondered though, how Harvey had ever begun to write a regular sports column for The Jewish Post. As I pored through our archives trying to find an answer to that question, all that I could find was a column by Sid Bursten, the then-managing director of The Jewish Post, in the September 2, 1976 issue, announcing the hiring of several new staff writers, including Harvey as a sports writer.
Harvey’s first-ever column, which did not yet have the name “The Sporting Touch” attached to it, appeared one week later, in the September 9, 1976 issue. There was no introduction – nothing to indicate why Harvey was interested in writing a sports column – or even who he was. But that column contained all the trademark Harvey Rosen “shtick,” especially his use of Yiddish phrases – and what anyone who read his column on a regular basis would come to recognize: some of the corniest lines imaginable.
Yet, he was extraordinarily prolific – combing the world for stories about Jewish athletes. Here is how Harvey’s good friend, Myron Love, who was a teacher the same time as Harvey, described his career, in a piece Myron wrote for us in March 2019:
“For more than 40 years, popular Jewish Post & News sports columnist Harvey Rosen has been a fixture at Winnipeg sporting events. Over the years, he has rarely missed a CFL football game or professional hockey game here. He has been in attendance for every major sports banquet or local Hall of Fame induction. He has been, in his own words, ‘where the action is.’
“But no more.
“Rosen has been cutting back on his sports coverage for a few years now. For years, a stringer covering the Bombers and the Jets for Canadian Press, he stopped going to the football games after the local team moved to its new home near the University of Manitoba and quit the hockey coverage a couple of years ago.
“And, at the end of December, he wrote his last column for the JP&N.
“ ‘I thought that it was time,’ he says. “ “ ‘You can’t go on forever.’
“Rosen’s career as a sports writer began serendipitously with The Jewish Post (before the paper became The Jewish Post & News). In 1976, the then Post editor, Sid Bursten, got the idea of starting a sports column.
“ ‘My wife at the time, Judy, was a close friend of Brenda Barrie, Sid’s wife,’ Rosen recalls. ‘Judy suggested to Brenda that I write the column.’
“Rosen was an ideal choice. He was always enthusiastic about sports. Growing up in the north end, he had played hockey and fastball as a kid.
“As a junior high school teacher – a profession he pursued for 33 years – the lifelong north ender coached softball and led his teams to numerous city championships.
“His column in the Post caught the eye of an editor at the Canadian Press, which hired Harvey as its reporter in Winnipeg. He started with the World Hockey Association (for those readers old enough to remember those glory days for our city and professional hockey) and continued through the coming of the NHL to Winnipeg, the original Jets’ traumatic departure, the Moose and the return of the Jets.
“There were many hectic times and long evenings, Harvey recalls. He would often visit both dressing rooms for comments after a game, then have to hurry home and type up the column the same evening.
“ ‘I became quite friendly with several of the professional athletes I covered,’ he says. ‘I have met many wonderful people.’
“Both as a teacher and a sports writer, Harvey Rosen brought a positive approach to his work and those he worked with. ‘In the classroom, I always looked for reasons to compliment and encourage my students,’ he notes. ‘I approached athletes the same way. Authentic compliments help to boost individuals’ confidence and morale I believe.’
“But it was not only professional athletes that Rosen was able to hang out with. His columns also put the spotlight on local Jewish amateur athletes – both younger individuals and seniors – in a wide variety of sports. He notes that Y Sports Dinner committee members, such as Ernie Nairn and the late Ken Kronson, regularly sought his input when seeking nominees for the Jewish Athlete of the Year award.
“And, for many readers, their favourite Rosen columns were those in which he highlighted the Jewish athletes in professional sports such as major league baseball, the NFL and the NHL.
“How did he do it? By scouring the weekly and monthly football, baseball, hockey, and other sports publications to which he subscribed.
“ ‘Sometimes, you can tell by the name,’ he points out. ‘But then you get a name like Mike Camalleri (Jewish mother). If I suspected that a player was Jewish, I would contact the player to confirm it.’
“Rosen is receiving some well-earned official recognition of his own these days. He reports that True North (the Jets parent company) invited him to supper and a game in January and that he is going to be honoured at the next Rady JCC Sports Dinner.
“ ‘I am going to miss the writing,’ he says.
“He might not be entirely finished though. He suggests that he may still submit stories from time to time.”
Alas, Harvey never did submit another story. But I doubt there will ever be another Jewish sportswriter quite like Harvey Rosen.

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