Friday, 10 May 2013

TBC: The Power Of Two

It's been a while since I've been able to post one of these, but I've taken some time to settle back into reading, and I'm happy to report that Teebz's Book Club will be returning in a big way. Today, TBC is proud to bring to you a review of a book that really should be read by every hockey fan. I am proud to review The Power of Two, written by Susan Foster with Carl Brewer and published by the Fenn Publishing Company Ltd. If you don't know who Carl Brewer is, he was a very interesting man who had a great hockey career in the NHL and on the international scene. But perhaps he is more famous for the battles he had off the ice against the NHL establishment and, ultimately, Alan Eagleson regarding player pensions and Eagleson's eventual guilty plea in mismanaging the pensions of hundreds of players.

Susan Foster actually had a pretty nice career as a high school English teacher lined up before her and Carl Brewer began battling with NHL owners and Alan Eagleson. While it took a number of years before it became official, Foster and Brewer eventually became a couple, seemingly knowing that they were meant for one another from their first meeting. Her work was instrumental in bringing about sweeping changes to NHL player pensions and the eventual incarceration of Alan Eagleson for the mismanagement of those funds. Susan Foster resides in Toronto today, retired from teaching and amateur lawyer work.

Carl Brewer is former NHL defenceman who starred with the Toronto Maple Leafs on three Stanley Cup-winning teams in the 1960s. Brewer also played with the Detroit Red Wings alongside Gordie Howe with whom he forged a long-term friendship. Brewer also played with the Canadian National Team and a number of European teams in his hockey career before officially retiring from the game in 1980. The three-time NHL All-Star was the driving force behind the changes to the NHL player pensions, and he was at the front-and-center in forcing Alan Eagleson into a guilty plea for the mismanagement of those pension funds, leading to his incarceration. Brewer passed away on August 26, 2001 after battling heart problems. He was 62.

At first, I wasn't sure that I would enjoy The Power of Two. Normally, I like crime-related stories, but I wasn't sure that this reflection on Carl Brewer's life was going to delve into the details I was expecting. Instead, what I found within the pages was an excellent biography of Mr. Brewer woven into the story of how one man led the charge against hockey's czar.

Miss Foster's writing style is very descriptive and extremely thorough, most likely due to her abilities as an English teacher. She doesn't miss a detail of any of the trials and tribulations that her and Mr. Brewer went through in their numerous battles with the NHL and its power brokers. But she also brings out qualities in Mr. Brewer that one may not expect of a battle-tested hockey player through her well-crafted words, and it's here that we see that Carl Brewer was a very emotional person who extremely conscientious of others and their feelings. The dichotomy of Brewer's personality - crying at movies yet willing to go to war with the Maple Leafs over $100 - shows that he was not only a complex individual, but a very thoughtful and determined man once he was involved in anything.

There were many who branded Carl Brewer as "crazy" and "obsessed" in his pursuit of Alan Eagleson, but, without him, hockey players today wouldn't have the salaries, the pensions, and the benefits they do. Many players were afraid to take on the NHL's power brokers - John Zeigler, Bill Wirtz, and Alan Eagleson - but it was Brewer and a few other players who won the battles that led to the investigation and sentencing of Alan Eagleson for racketeering, fraud and embezzlement of NHL player pension monies. The few chapters devoted to the fight that Brewer took to the doors of the NHL and Alan Eagleson are very impressive and should be mandatory reading for all hockey fans.

"A pot of international hockey money had remained with the NHLPA and was referred to as "bonus pension"; this was always represented to the players as pension money. It was discovered that Eagleson had been using this fund as his personal bank for years. I first became aware that Eagleson was lending out money he managed on behalf of his clients when I watched the Vaclav Nedomansky trial back in the early 1980s, but I had no idea he had been doing so - liberally - with the bonus pension funds. The work Ed Garvey had done in 1989 revealed that Eagleson routinely and systematically lent those monies, to the tune of approximately $2 million, to friends, family and clients of his law firm over many years. In doing so, he was in a blatant conflict of interest: he was acting for the lender - the NHLPA, which was the rightful owner of the funds and which paid him to look after its interests - and he was acting on behalf of the borrowers, who were invariably clients of Eagleson, Ungerman. We tracked scores of such deals."
Honestly, the amount of evidence documented in The Power of Two that was dug up by Miss Foster, Mr. Brewer, and the scores of reporters working with them in this investigation is documented well, and it's not hard to see why Alan Eagleson was convicted of the crimes with which he was charged. While I enjoyed the portion of the book about Mr. Brewer's career, the second half of the book where Mr. Brewer battled the NHL and Eagleson was worth the price of admission alone.

The Power of Two is an extremely well-written story of Carl Brewer's career in and out of hockey. Miss Foster highlights all of Mr. Brewer's achievements in hockey, but also allows the reader into the mind and emotions of Carl Brewer, one of hockey's enigmas as most would have one believe. The work in documenting all of the efforts that went into Carl's battles with the NHL and Alan Eagleson are nothing short of spectacular, and Miss Foster should really be commended for writing a book with such excellent attention to detail. Because of these reasons, I am obliged to award The Power of Two the prestigious Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

The 333-page book does contain a few instances of PG-rated language, but the writing can easily be handled by teens and older. Look for The Power of Two at your local bookstore or library!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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