For the Love of the Game - New Fund Honours First Jewish Canadian-Born NHL Player

by Stu Slayen | Apr 01, 2020
Max Labovitch was passionate about hockey; fiercely proud of his Jewish identity; and always happy to cheer for the underdog. So when Labovitch passed away in January 2018, his daughters—Valerie Lowenstein and Harriet Breslauer—chose to honour his memory by establishing a fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba to help young Jewish hockey players.

The Max Labovitch Ice Hockey Scholarship Fund, housed under the Rady Jewish Community Centre’s Organizational Endowment Fund, will generate an annual award to a young Jewish male hockey player in need of financial support to move forward in hockey. The first recipient will be announced at the next Rady JCC Sports Dinner. “My sister and I wanted to do this as a way to give back to the Jewish community and create a legacy in our father’s name,” says Lowenstein, who lives in Boston. “Our dad was very active at the YMHA and so we wanted to do this through the Rady Centre. He always wanted to help those who were less fortunate.”

Max Labovitch started skating and playing hockey at the age of seven and fell in love with the game right away. He left home at the age of 16 to pursue the game, and in 1941 at the age of 17 he began his professional hockey career with the New Haven Eagles of the American Hockey League. In 1943, he joined the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League—the first Canadian-born Jewish player in the NHL. He also played in the Eastern Hockey League, the Western International Hockey League, and the International Hockey League.

“My dad loved the game,” says Lowenstein, who still cheers for the Rangers. “He played oldtimers’ hockey into his 80s and floor hockey at the YMHA for years. I think my father would have been very happy with this fund as a way to help others and celebrate the sport he loved so much.”