Legends of Hockey -- NHL Player Search -- Player -- Carl Brewer
Nobody ever knew what Carl Brewer was going to do next. On the ice, he was a tough but agile defenseman who could stickhandle with a deceptive creativity. He had the ability to cross the opposing blue line and then pause, using dekes to ward off checkers, waiting for a teammate to get into the open for one of his feathery passes. In the defensive zone, he was adept at getting in an opponent's way, using clean tactics and not so clean tactics, such as cutting the palm out of his gloves to facilitate a sneaky kind of holding. Off the ice, he was a scholar and a freethinker who retired several times from hockey, only to turn up later playing on different teams or in different countries.

Brewer played his junior hockey with the Toronto Marlboros and earned his first pro experience as a 19 year old, playing two games for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1957-58 season. The next year he became a regular with the Leafs. Brewer's speed and agility were well known, but his tendency to end up in the penalty box was a problem, especially early in his career. Twice he led the NHL in penalty minutes, in 1959-60 sitting out the equivalent of two and a half games. He had a trigger temper and often took penalties by retaliating after hits and jibes from other players.

The Leafs' savvy defensive standouts Brewer, Allan Stanley, Bob Baun and Tim Horton were the foundation of the Toronto team that captured the Stanley Cup for three consecutive seasons beginning in 1961-62. Brewer was selected to the First All-Star Team following Toronto's championship run in 1962-63. Even with the success or perhaps because of it Brewer found the pressure of playing professional hockey in a city like Toronto overwhelming. He was a tense man during his time with the Leafs. He disliked media attention and the added pressure of playing in front of hockeymad fans didn't sit well with a player who already pushed himself to be the best at his position. He also had conflicts with management, especially coach Punch Imlach. Brewer first retired following the 1960 season, upset about $100 he felt he was owed by the team to cover medical expenses. He announced he was going to play football at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where he had been taking courses toward his bachelor of arts degree. The Leafs eventually convinced him to return and gave him $200.

During training camp in 1965, Brewer had an on ice disagreement with teammate Johnny Bower that continued into the dressing room. Imlach sent the defenseman home for a few days "to think about it." Brewer did think about it, and decided to retire from professional hockey. He would stay out of the NHL for four years.

He decided he wanted to play for Canada's national team in 1966 but had to struggle, again with Imlach, to regain his amateur standing. Imlach, who could hardly stand in the way of a man who wanted to play for his country, finally allowed Brewer to play for the national team, which he did for one year. He then spent a season as a player-coach with the Muskegon, Michigan, team in the International Hockey League, earning a share of the gate because of his star status. His next stop was in Finland again as a player-coach with the Finnish national team while he took courses at the University of Helsinki.

While Brewer was away, his professional rights were traded by the Leafs to the Detroit Red Wings, along with Frank Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski and Garry Unger, for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson and Floyd Smith. It took Detroit manager Sid Abel more than a year to sign Brewer, which he did one hour before those rights would have reverted to the Maple Leafs. Brewer was partially convinced by Mahovlich and Bob Baun, former teammates in Toronto whose careers were rejuvenated with the Red Wings. Mahovlich, who had wilted under Imlach's intense pressure in Toronto as well, called Brewer in Finland several times to encourage his return to the NHL. Brewer had an incredible season in 1969-70 with the Red Wings, earning a place on the league's Second All-Star Team. In the summer of 1970, he sent a two-paragraph letter to Abel setting out his retirement, an announcement that shocked his teammates and management. He did return the next year, but this time to Scotty Bowman's St. Louis Blues, where he played for two years before retiring again. He joined the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association in 1973-74 and played for one year. In 1979-80, after almost six years out of the game, he made a comeback with the Maple Leafs. "I guess I've always had it on my mind," the 41 year old said, "to die a Maple Leaf." He played for 20 games before quitting for good.

Player agent and union leader Alan Eagleson had been instrumental in Brewer's reinstatement as an amateur in 1966. After his career finally ended, however, Brewer began to investigate some of Eagleson's business dealings. Brewer's findings led to Eagleson's eventual conviction on a number of fraud related charges. The former head of the players' association was jailed in 1998, thanks in large measure to Brewer's efforts on behalf of the alumni association.


REGULAR SEASON PLAYOFFS
Season Club League GP G A TP PIM +/- GP G A TP PIM
1955-56 Weston Dukes ON-Jr.B
1955-56 Toronto Marlboros OHA-Jr. 10 1 3 4 6 11 3 5 8 10
1955-56 Toronto Marlboros M-Cup 13 1 2 3 12
1956-57 Toronto Marlboros OHA-Jr. 48 8 24 32 154 9 4 3 7 33
1957-58 Toronto Marlboros OHA-Jr. 50 10 37 47 212 13 3 9 12 75
1957-58 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 2 0 0 0 0
1957-58 Toronto Marlboros M-Cup 5 1 1 2 12
1958-59 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 69 3 21 24 125 12 0 6 6 40
1958-59 Rochester Americans AHL 1 0 1 1 2
1959-60 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 67 4 19 23 150 10 2 3 5 16
1960-61 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 51 1 14 15 92 5 0 0 0 4
1961-62 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 67 1 22 23 89 8 0 2 2 22
1962-63 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 70 2 23 25 168 10 0 1 1 12
1963-64 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 57 4 9 13 114 12 0 1 1 30
1964-65 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 70 4 23 27 177 6 1 2 3 12
1965-66
1966-67 Canada Nat-Tm
1966-67 Canada WEC-A 7 1 6 7 10
1967-68 Muskegon Mohawks IHL 63 13 55 68 82 9 3 9 12 4
1968-69 HIFK Helsinki Finland 20 4 14 18 53
1969-70 Detroit Red Wings NHL 70 2 37 39 51 +44 4 0 0 0 2
1970-71 St. Louis Blues NHL 19 2 9 11 29 -1 5 0 2 2 8
1971-72 St. Louis Blues NHL 42 2 16 18 40 -6
1972-73
1973-74 Toronto Toros WHA 77 2 23 25 42 12 0 4 4 11
1974-75
1975-76
1976-77
1977-78
1978-79
1979-80 New Brunswick Hawks AHL 3 0 0 0 0
1979-80 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 20 0 5 5 2 -5
NHL Totals 604 25 198 223 1037 72 3 17 20 146


NHL Second All-Star Team (1962, 1965, 1970)
NHL First All-Star Team (1963)
WEC-A All-Star Team (1967)
IHL First All-Star Team (1968)
Governors' Trophy (Outstanding Defenseman - IHL) (1968) Played in NHL All-Star Game (1959, 1962, 1964, 1970)
Signed as a free agent by Muskegon (IHL), July, 1967. Rights traded to Detroit by Toronto with Frank Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski and Garry Unger for Norm Ullman, Floyd Smith, Paul Henderson and Doug Barrie, March 3, 1968.
Left Detroit's training camp on September 4, 1970 to concentrate on job with the KOHO hockey stick company. Traded to St. Louis by Detroit for future considerations (Mike Lowe, Ab McDonald and Bob Wall), May 12, 1971), February 22, 1971. Selected by LA Sharks (WHA) in 1972 WHA General Player Draft, February 12, 1972. WHA rights traded to Toronto (WHA) by LA Sharks (WHA) for cash, October, 1973. Signed as a free agent by Toronto, January 2, 1980.
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