Brewer's widow releases their story

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

On the ice, Carl Brewer was teamed with Bob Baun on a great Maple Leafs defence.

But away from the rink, Brewer's strongest partner was Susan Foster. They battled a very different kind of National Hockey League foe.

Starting with nothing more than a sense of justice, the pair went after player union kingpin Alan Eagleson and his buddy-buddy cabal of team owners. They helped uncover millions of dollars in misappropriated pension funds from retired veterans that ultimately drove Eagleson from office.

Their 15-year struggle to expose the NHL's poor treatment of its golden-era players has been chronicled by Foster in The Power Of Two, a book the couple intended as a joint project before Brewer died in 2001.

"People always ask me 'Why us, why did you two get involved?' in something such as this," Foster said. "But we're all given roles in life and for some reason, this was ours. I think Carl would be very proud of this book.

Eagleson had Brewer to thank in part for his rise to prominence in hockey. Brewer hired the young lawyer as one of hockey's first agents in the 1960s. Eagleson gained more clients and went on to form the NHL Players Association. He might still be influencing the game today had Brewer not decided to make a comeback with the Leafs in 1979.

Brewer's return lasted just 20 games, despite what he believed was a multi-year deal. He had long opposed the reserve clause in the standard players contract that tied players to one team, but it was during his fight with the Leafs for a contract settlement and his questions about pension eligibility that he and Foster began to smell a rat.

"The Leafs just ignored Carl when he asked about his contract and through a lengthy arbitration process, we discovered (NHL president) John Ziegler was the sole arbitrator of contracts. Carl later wrote to the NHL pension society and they told him to get lost. Naturally, these things troubled us."

Foster, a McGill grad with a teaching degree, had no previous investigative reporting skills, but learned fast, helping Brewer delve into the history of the pension plan back to 1947.

Eventually, the league had to return around $40 million US to hundreds of players. Eagleson served six months in jail.

"Carl had constant angst with Eagleson and always said the pension fight was the way to (have closure)," Foster said. "It was a victory, but a long one. I'm glad he was around to see it."


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