9. Carl Brewer (D) – Toronto Maple Leafs (1957-1965, 1979-80)
Carl Brewer began and ended his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs playing nine seasons in total with the Leafs while helping them capture three consecutive Stanley Cup Championships.
No Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman has ever won the Norris trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman, but Carl Brewer came as close as any member of the Leafs when he was runner-up in 1963.
Only three other players have been runner-up for the Norris trophy as members of the Toronto Maple Leafs: Tim Horton and Borje Salming have already had their numbers retired and the other player is coming up on this list.
Carl Brewer was also named to three NHL All-Star Teams: 1st NHL All-Star Team in 1963 and 2nd NHL All-Star Team in 1962 and 1965.
The only players to be named to more NHL All-Star Teams as members of the Toronto Maple Leafs are Tim Horton (6), Frank Mahovolich (6), Borje Salming (6), Charlie Conacher (5), Syl Apps (5), King Clancy (4), who all have had their numbers retired by the Leafs, and one more player who is in the top 5 on this list.
Why Carl Brewer hasn’t already been honoured by the Toronto Maple Leafs
Some say Carl Brewer hasn’t been honoured by the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Hockey Hall of Fame because of his falling out with the team and league over contract negotiations throughout his career.
His intense contract talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs saw him leave the NHL in his prime first to sit out and then to play in the IHL and Finland. Toronto ended up including his rights in a blockbuster deal with the Detroit Red Wings along with Frank Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski and Garry Unger for Doug Barrie, Paul Henderson, Floyd Smith and Norm Ullman.
Brewer eventually returned to the NHL to play with Detroit for one season before being trade to the St. Louis Blues. After a couple seasons with the Blues, Brewer had another couple stints of sitting out between playing a season with the WHA’s Toronto Toros before re-joining the Leafs for one final NHL season.
Off the ice, he was seen as a trouble maker during his career, but in retrospect, he was a trailblazer fighting for the rights of all NHL players.
He was the major player in the 17 year lawsuit against Alan Eagleson, the first executive director of the NHLPA, over money taken from the player’s pension fund which ended with $40 million going to the players and Eagleson serving six months of his 18 month sentence while being removed from the Order of Canada and forced to re-sign from the Hockey Hall of Fame.
This should all be water under the bridge now as Toronto Maple Leafs management has turned over several times since Brewer’s playing days, and he should now be seen as a hero. Hopefully we’ll see his number in the rafters and his plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame soon.
Carl Brewer wore #18 when he entered the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs and #28 during his second stint with the Leafs. However, in 1961, he switched to the #2 when it became available. That’s the number he wore during his prime with the Toronto Maple Leafs and later with the St. Louis Blues. The #2 is the number that should be retired in Brewer’s honour.
No one is currently wearing that number on the Leafs, so it wouldn’t have to be vacated if retired now. The last Leaf to wear the #2 was Ron Hainsey in 2019.
Achievements with the Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs Top 100 #32
1st NHL All-Star Team 1963
2nd NHL All-Star Team 1962, 1965
Norris Trophy Runner-Up 1963
4th in Norris trophy voting 1962
6th in Norris trophy voting 1965
Played in Three NHL All-Star Games
Three Stanley Cup Championships
Led NHL in Penalty Minutes twice
Top 10 in NHL Goals by a Defensemen for one season
Top 10 in NHL Assists by a Defensemen for four seasons
Top 10 in NHL Points by a Defensemen for four seasons