“The Power of Two” is the story, in Foster’s words and with contributions saved from writings by Brewer on scraps of paper, of the life they came to share, and of their joint battle with hockey’s power brokers.
Brewer would love the book but, of course, he’s not around to read it. He was receiving treatment for sleep apnea when Foster – Brewer’s long-time friend and companion – awoke on the morning of Aug. 25, 2001, to find that he had passed away. He was 62.
Brewer was obsessed with getting what he felt he deserved from the Toronto Maple Leafs and the pension plan for NHL players, and with exposing Alan Eagleson, and Foster was an integral part of the attack on all fronts. Brewer had the dogged determination and Foster had the brains.
They succeeded, somehow, both in the courts and in sharing a love that evolved out of their broken marriages.
Brewer was on integral part of the Leafs teams that won the Stanley Cup in 1962, 1963 and 1964. He was named to the NHL’s first all-star team in 1963.
He was always different. He brought Eagleson into his contract talks with the Leafs, much to the dismay of coach Punch Imlach, he cut the palms out of his gloves so he could hold his stick shaft with his bare hands, and he walked away from the NHL in 1965 after playing for only seven years.
He sought and was eventually granted reinstatement as an amateur so he could play for Canada at the 1967 world championship, he went to Finland to play temporarily, and returned to the NHL to play a full season with the Detroit Red Wings in 1969-70. After two ensuing years of sporadic playing time with the St. Louis Blues hampered by a knee injury, Brewer quit hockey again.
Brewer reappeared with the Toronto Toros of the upstart WHA in 1973-74. He quit again, only to strangely reappear in 1979-80 with the Leafs after Imlach was brought back. His teammates regarded him as an Imlach spy, but he really wasn’t. Brewer got credit for dressing for 20 games in what was his swansong.
It was during his legal attempts to get money he felt he was owed by the Leafs that he encountered opposition from Eagleson, his former buddy who was by now solidly entrenched as executive director of the NHL Players’ Association. They were close enough at the start that the Eaglesons had Brewer be their daughter’s Godfather. By the end, they were bitter enemies, and Brewer was no longer the Godfather.
On April 26, 1991, Brewer and a handful of other former players filed a lawsuit against the NHL to recover missing pension monies. They learned the following year that they had won, and the legal victory spurred Brewer and Foster on in their investigation of the fraud, corruption and embezzlement on which Eagleson built his empire. The courts shot down The Eagle in the spring of 1994.
When he finally stood in a Boston court for sentencing on Jan. 6, 1998, Eagleson was fined US$1 million. Brewer and Foster were in the courtroom along with others such as American reporter Russ Conway who had pursued Eagleson, and the district attorney asked if anybody wanted to make a statement.
“Carl, gripping the polished oak railing in front of us, spoke firmly, clearly and gratefully,” Foster wrote in “The Power of Two” in recalling the moment. “I put my hand on his arm to steady him, to support him.”
Brewer was brief.
“I just want to thank God for the United States of America because none of this would have occurred in Canada,” he said.
Foster continues: “He sat down beside me, his eyes filled with tears. Later, Carl mused, ‘Wow! How the hell did I do that? It was uncharacteristic of me, but I had to say something.’ This, in my opinion, may very well have been Carl Brewer’s finest and proudest moment, not only for his courage in standing up and speaking from the heart in this formal setting, but for the moment of vindication that it represented for him personally.
“He had been cast aside as the flake, the troublemaker obsessed with Alan Eagleson, for decades. Today he demonstrated that wasn’t true.”
Eagleson would also serve a jail sentence in Toronto.
Every month, when retired NHL players open their pension cheques, many are getting more than they would have had not Brewer and Foster and a handful of others not persevered in getting justice for the oldtimers persevered.
To his dying day, Brewer remained convinced there were other areas of possible malfeasance in hockey that he wanted to investigate.
A few days before he died, Brewer arrived home as Foster was preparing dinner.
“Carl stood quietly, looking at me intently and reflectively, and said, ‘Sue, I don’t want to go. I really don’t want to go. But if I do go, it’s perfectly all right. I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve done it all.”‘
There should be a statue of Brewer and Foster outside the NHLPA offices.
(333 pages, Fenn Publishing, $34.95)