McNab suffered a massive stroke in Las Vegas on Saturday and died on Sunday, Peter McNab, his son and a former NHL player, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
"Max McNab played and coached and managed in dozens of cities, and he made friends for hockey in every one of them," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. "The only emotion that exceeded his pride in the game was the joy he derived from it. As a player, as an executive, as the patriarch of an outstanding hockey family and as an ambassador of our sport, Max McNab was a champion. The NHL will miss him dearly."
Max McNab joined the Red Wings in 1948 and as a rookie centred a line with Hall of Famers Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. His championship came two years later when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in double overtime of Game 7 against the New York Rangers.
After a back injury shortened his playing career, McNab got his first coaching job in 1952-53 with New Westminster of the WHL. He later coached in the league at San Francisco and Vancouver before becoming a coach-general manager for the San Diego Gulls.
McNab served two seasons as the president of the Central Hockey League before returning to the NHL as the general manager of the Washington Capitals from 1975-81. He joined the New Jersey Devils as vice president of hockey operations the following season and served as general manager from 1983-87. He served as executive vice president from 1987-1994, when he retired.
"I have been blessed by being granted the opportunity to spend 48 years associated with the greatest game of all," the native of Watson, Sask., said when he retired.
McNab won the Lester Patrick Award in 1998 for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
Devils chief executive Lou Lamoriello said that McNab was a gentleman who dedicated his entire life to his family and to the game of hockey.
"The hockey world has lost a great friend," Lamoriello said.
McNab is survived by a sister, Islay, his wife, June, and three sons - Peter, David and Michael.
David McNab is an assistant general manager with the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks; Peter McNab serves as a colour commentator for the Colorado Avalanche.
"I'm not going to enjoy hockey as much because I won't have Max to talk to about the games and the stories," Peter McNab said.
"He just loved the hockey talk. He loved to talk about whatever happened in a game. He made it fun to tell a story."
A memorial service is planned for Saturday afternoon at the Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Las Vegas.