The Maple Leafs are mourning the loss of a legend following the passing of Carl Brewer over the weekend. The former All-Star defenceman died in his sleep on Saturday at the age of 62.
To say that Brewer was one of a kind may be an understatement. As a gifted player, he was a stalwart on the blueline when Toronto won three consecutive Stanley Cups from 1962-64. His play was also recognized with three All-Star selections, including a First Team spot in 1963 and two Second Team honours in 1962 and 1965. Brewer was known as a great skater who could rush the puck well, but was also a feisty force in his own end.
However, Brewer was also renowned for being very much the individual. He left the Leafs in 1965 in a contract dispute and spent the next several seasons playing in a variety of locales. He spent time playing and coaching in Finland and he fought for reinstatement of his amateur status so he could compete with Canada's national team. Brewer returned to the NHL after his rights were dealt to the Red Wings and retired after stints with Detroit, St. Louis and the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association.
Brewer's heart, though, always remained with the Leafs and he came out of retirement at the age of 41 to play 20 games in the blue and white in 1980 before hanging it up for good.
Never one to back down from a fight, the loquacious Brewer had perhaps his biggest battle off the ice by fighting for the rights of retired NHL players. In a lengthy dispute that was only resolved in the late 1990s, a settlement was finally reached that saw millions of dollars paid back to retired players from long-overdue pension funds.
Brewer was born in Toronto and honed his game as a member of the Toronto Marlboros, a junior powerhouse in the 1950s. He played two games with the Leafs in 1957-58 and played his first full season the following year. In 473 games with the Leafs, Brewer had 19 goals, 136 assists and 155 points.