"It's difficult, I know, for many people to realize just what someone goes through who has a fear of flying," he says. "It's not as bad as it once was, but it is still bad enough. On planes I do try to sit with elderly ladies or someone that I can talk to about flying. I find that by talking about it and occupying myself this way, it's not near the problem. This I know is selfish of me." As for the fans, they leave Brewer alone most of the time he is in public; this to him is the most relaxing aspect of playing hockey in the United States instead of Canada.
While Brewer is reasonably happy, some Red Wing fans are not. "All I know is that he's not the same out there," growls one longtime Red Wing-lover, who of course was previously a Brewer-hater. "I can remember the way his eyes flared. He'd cut somebody up as soon as look at him. But still he was always thinking, always ahead of everybody else upstairs. You could see it, and you wondered just who does this guy think he is. What made you maddest of all was his knack of goading our guys into taking a swing at him and getting a stupid penalty. Brewer would be laughing as the Leaf power play came over the boards. Now, though, he's different. He looks like so many of the Wings—too tame."
"I can't say I'm disappointed in Carl's play, because he's helped us," says Sid Abel. "He's helped us so much, in fact, he's the one player that we just can't lose for very long. Whenever we get in trouble in our own end the guys just look around for Brewer, because they know if they get the puck to him he'll take the heat off. Still, he's not playing with that old gusto, and I find myself wondering how good we'd be if he was."
While missing the playoffs the last three years, the Red Wings were getting murdered in their own end; there simply was no one who could handle the puck well enough to lead them out. Brewer has at least provided that, and as a result the Wings are now fourth instead of last and have given up 28 fewer goals than at the same time last year. The whole 1968 deal, in fact, has been sweet for Detroit. Former Wings Ullman, Paul Henderson and Floyd Smith have only 17 goals to date for the Leafs, who are in last place, while Mahovlich, Garry Unger, Pete Stemkowski and Brewer have scored 53 for Detroit.
As for the alleged tameness of the Red Wings, it ain't necessarily so. What they have needed badly—and are getting this year from Ron Harris, a real basher—is some programmed recklessness. This is where Carl Brewer has also helped. "Brewer's greatest contribution, aside from getting the puck out of our end, has been his effect on Harris," says Abel. "Ron is one gutsy, hard-working fellow who isn't afraid of anything. In the past he hurt us with his recklessness, but now, with Brewer playing alongside him and talking to him, the other team always wants to know where Harris is before they do something fancy. Like I said, you've got to wonder how we'd be if Brewer was his old self."