A Life's Story
June 10, 2023
MVP of the press box
Freelancer Harvey Rosen was sports lover, consummate team player
By: Geoff Kirbyson
Following a flurry of on-ice activity during a game between the Winnipeg Jets and Detroit Red Wings a few years ago at the MTS Centre, Harvey Rosen leaned over to a press box colleague to double-check a scoring play by the visitors.
The veteran Canadian Press sports reporter jotted down the names in a notepad and offered his thanks with a wink.
“I’m glad I asked. I had Gordie Howe from Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel,” he deadpanned, referring to the Motor City’s production line of the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The diminutive Rosen was a full-time junior high school teacher for 33 years but he was more widely known for his side hustles as a freelancer for CP and his writing for the Jewish Post.
In fact, it was one of his Sporting Touch columns — where he specialized in highlighting the achievements of Jewish athletes both in Winnipeg and around the world — that caught the eye of an editor at CP. Rosen was very proud of his Jewish heritage and took great pride in his four decades of work for the Post.
But story ideas about Jewish athletes didn’t appear out of thin air so Rosen’s postal carrier got a workout delivering a wide variety of hockey, football, baseball and other sports periodicals to his door. He would scour them searching for Jewish athletes and write about their experiences.
Rosen covered hockey for a half-century, dating back to the Winnipeg Junior Jets in the 1960s, the WHA Jets in the 1970s, the original NHL Jets in the 1980s and ’90s, the Manitoba Moose and the reincarnated Jets until 2017. He also covered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and a variety of other sporting events.
Inducted into the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association media roll of honour in 2005, and the Rady JCC Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2019, Rosen died on Dec. 22, 2022, following a brief illness at the age of 83. He had battled dementia during the last years of his life.
He is survived by his children, Pam and Kevin (Judi); his grandchildren, Stella, Jakob, and Emery; and his sister, Beverly Binder.
Longtime CBC sportscaster Ernie Nairn said Rosen was his “go-to” guy to identify and help select the young Jewish athletes to be honoured at the annual Rady JCC sports dinner every June.
“He always had a great list of nominees and bios that he shared with me and the rest of the selection committee. I was always amazed at his knowledge of the current and past Jewish athletes that were a part of this community’s history,” Nairn says.
The ever-frugal Rosen always double-checked with Nairn that the committee would provide him with a complimentary ticket so he could write a post-dinner column for the Post.
“He was a very quiet individual but I always enjoyed seeing and talking with him in the press box at all the Jets and Bombers games that he covered for the Canadian Press. He was always there with his tape recorder to get the post-game clips from the athletes after the game.”
Judy Owen started freelancing for CP alongside Rosen, who she often referred to as her “little buddy,” in 2002. She wrote print stories while he filed for radio. There’s a unique kinship among sports reporters on tight deadlines and the two frequently scratched each other’s backs.
“Harvey was so helpful. We’d both go to the dressing room and sometimes I’d get there late and miss part of a player’s interview. He would always let me record his tape and he didn’t mind that I was interrupting his work,” she says.
“He would always boost me up, compliment me and make me feel better. He was like that with all reporters. He was so helpful. He was a true gentleman.”
The two sat beside each other in the press box for more than 15 years. Owen had to be careful to time sips of her beverage during breaks in Rosen’s banter so she didn’t shower fans down below.
“I would sit there and listen to his memories of the Jets and Bombers. He was a walking encyclopedia of local sports history,” she says.
“In the first period, he’d pipe up and say, ‘It’s still anybody’s game!’ It came out of the blue and made us laugh.”
While most of his press box colleagues used the latest technology, which they carried around in their pockets, Rosen was strictly old school, carting around a microphone and a tape recorder that could double as a door stop.
Not every visiting player is as recognizable as Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin and Rosen didn’t worry about bruising any egos in the dressing room. Sometimes as a scrum was dissipating, he would turn off his mic and ask, “who was that?” well within earshot of the player he’d just taped.
In addition to being a couple of decades senior to his next-oldest colleague, Rosen was instantly recognizable by his ever-present and distinctive short-brimmed cap.
“He always looked so dapper,” Owen says.
Rosen was born in Portage la Prairie and moved to Winnipeg at the age of five. He grew up in the North End, where he attended Luxton School and St. John’s High School. He attended United College and the University of Manitoba, after which he embarked on his career as a school teacher. He began in Carman, before moving on to Isaac Newton School and Andrew Mynarski School in Winnipeg. He taught English, French, social studies and consumer education. He also put the Mynarski boys baseball teams through their paces and guided them to a number of tournament victories over the years. He retired from teaching in 1995.
Bob Irving, the longtime radio voice of the Blue Bombers, remembers Rosen always had a “devilish grin” whenever he’d see him in the press box.
“You knew he was going to pop something funny on you. You looked forward to seeing him and hearing what funny little gem he was going to drop on you,” he says.
Irving says it was easy to see that Rosen truly loved being a part of the local sports media.
“He relished the moments when he was covering those games as much as he enjoyed the actual sports themselves. He was a delight to be around and a delightful human being. He was never angry or upset about anything and he always had a pleasant view of the world, while he was waiting to drop another funny line on you,” he says.
Rosen’s last dispatch for CP was the Jets home opener of the 2017-18 season, a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Later that season, Owen invited Rosen to watch one more game from the press box because his fellow reporters wanted to thank him for his camaraderie and wish him well in retirement.
“I bought him a meal in the press box, which he never did because he was so frugal. He was really touched by (the reception). He was so humble,” she says.
In a profession with more than its fair share of curmudgeons, Irving says he enjoyed spending time in Rosen’s company.
“There was never anything contentious with him, it was always just kibitzing around. Those people are a delight to be with. I have great memories of him, his personality and the way he was. He was a wonderful guy.”
“You always enjoyed seeing Harvey. You’d have some banter back and forth while you enjoyed the space you were in. There should be more people like him in the world.”
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