|Maxy winds up for one of his blistering slapshots.|
At the end of March 2012, the Minnesota NHL Alumni Association held the first ever Minnesota North Stars Reunion. It was the first such event since the Stars were taken to Dallas some nineteen years ago.
The heaviest lifting in organizing the reunion was done by Brad & Lori Maxwell. Old school fans remember Brad Maxwell as the physical All-Star defenseman who spent most of his 10 year career in green and gold. These days, he's the guy who keeps the old band together. He is the president of the Alumni Association, where along with other former North Stars and ex-NHL players who call Minnesota home, he participates in charity games and events, raising money for local hockey organizations and causes.
For his day job, Maxy has owned and operated Brad Maxwell Custom Cabinets & Fireplace Mantels for the last two decades. He took a short break from his workshop to chat with us on Thursday afternoon. Over a 40 minute conversation, we recapped the North Stars Reunion, discussed what's next for the Alumni Association, talked about his career, and covered the current NHL Playoffs and the state of our current home team, the Minnesota Wild.
North Stars Preservation Society: I guess the first thing I'd like to do is recap the North Stars Reunion weekend. Now that we've had a couple of weeks to reflect on it, how do you think it went? Would you consider it a success?
Brad Maxwell: I think it went really well. For a first-time deal, it was really good. I'm happy with how things turned out. The dinner turned out exactly the way that I wanted it to, with guys telling stories and stuff. People were totally mesmerized listening to the stories that these guys we're telling. And I've heard that before. We did some of that with the Wild, at fan fests and stuff like that, and people really like it. So I liked how the dinner worked out. On Friday I took all the guys to David Brooks' place in downtown St. Paul and we had a good time with that. And on Saturday we had the game and the event at Wild Tymes, and that turned out pretty good. And I think Thursday worked out really good. I was hoping that the Wild would have a better crowd. I wish we'd have done it on Saturday. It seemed like they had a lot more people. But I know they were trying to use us to sell that (Thursday) game against Florida, which hadn't sold (as well), but it worked out okay.
NSPS: A lot of people commented on the North Stars Facebook page that a North Stars reunion game should be against the Blackhawks. Or even against the Red Wings or Blues. But a Blackhawks game is going to sell out anyway.
BM: Yeah, they wouldn't really need that. And that's kind of how they wanted to use us, to see if we could get some people to come in for the Florida game, because their ticket sales were really down for that game. It worked well. We kind of had to coordinate it with Earle Brown Center, where we signed autographs, so we kind of had to do it that weekend. It would have maybe been nice to have not done the Thursday deal, but done the Friday dinner and then done the Saturday game where they had more of a full house. That might have been a little more exciting. When you go out there with the guys and the building is half-empty, that's not a good sign.
NSPS: Could you tell that there were more North Stars jerseys and shirts than usual in the crowd?
BM: Yep. There were quite a few people. There were a couple of things I wish they would have done. One of the things was I wish they would have had the current players on the ice (when they introduced the North Stars). They introduced us before the game, and not everybody had gotten to their seats yet. A lot of people were standing up on the concourse or up having a beer. They weren't really sitting in their seats. And they maybe could have had a flyer that said we were going to do this as part of the game so that people would know a little bit about what was going on. But, everybody thought it was good.
NSPS: So what are the chances of future reunions?
BM: I think we'll do another one. The guys who did come said that maybe in a couple years we could do something. Maybe we can get some different players to come in next time. One thing about that weekend is that with spring break guys like Danny Grant couldn't come. Danny O'Shea, Ernie Hicke, some of the other guys we invited said, "We'd love to come," but with spring break weekend they had made other plans and it's kind of hard to break that.
NSPS: If you had to pick one thing, what was the highlight for you, personally, of the reunion weekend?
BM: I think it was the dinner. Because I love the stories. We had about four generations of players there. Like Tom Reid, who played before me and I played a little bit with him. You had J.P. (Parise) up there, and Barry Gibbs. You had the older generation of players, then you had my generation and some after, and just listening to the stories that the guys tell... even myself, I'm fascinated by the stories. Some I'd heard, some I hadn't, and they're always funnier than heck. For me the dinner was really the highlight. I was really happy with the way that went.
NSPS: I agree with you, that was my favorite part, too. Just as a fan, that was an unbelievable experience. It was really cool to see how genuine all of the players were. They all just seemed like good guys.
BM: They really are. We go back to that. We played, just like the current players, but I think there's a different breed of player nowadays. I don't know if it's the money or what. It's not the league. We played in the same league. Maybe it's the money that some of them feel puts them on a different level. But the older players, they're all just down to earth. They did everything that we asked them to do. We had them running around on a Thursday night doing stuff around the Xcel. We did the autograph signing. Nobody said, "No, I don't want to do that." Everybody went along and said, "Yep. We're happy to do it." And they like to talk to people. And the older players, they like when they get a little notoriety, which they once had a long time ago. And when you've got people coming up to, say, Willi Plett, and saying "Willi, I loved when you played. You were one of the toughest players!" We may go, "Yeah yeah yeah," you know? But it's still always nice to hear that.
NSPS: Have you been watching any of the NHL Playoffs?
BM: I have, actually. I had a date night with Lori last night. We had to watch the Philly game because after that last one... she likes that old time hockey, just like me. And that's what it is, it's just amazing hockey. Then I watched a little bit of the Vancouver game last night. It's great to watch, you know? You get into the playoffs and the players are playing as hard as they can play and they're doing whatever they have to do to win a game. It's exciting to watch. You watch the regular season and it kind of drags on a little bit, but when you get to playoff hockey it's pretty exciting.
NSPS: There's nothing like playoff hockey. It's been a lot more physical this year.
BM: It has. I was watching Kris Letang from Pittsburgh, and that's a guy the Wild should go after. He's a great defenseman. He's physical, he's tough, but he's great on the power play. That's the kind of defenseman the Wild need, is Letang. I've been watching him quite a bit. He's really good. And sure it would be nice to get a Crosby, but maybe they can get Zach Parise. I don't know if he'll come up but I know they're working on that. I just think the Wild need a few real good defensemen and a couple of tough guys, a couple of guys who can bump in the corners, and they might be on their way.
NSPS: Well they've never really had a defenseman like that. Brent Burns was probably the closest thing, but he wasn't quite Letang.
BM: Yeah, Burns got what he got. Playing out in San Jose now, you get a little more media and you're probably expected to play a little bit more, and you have to show up every game. I don't know if Burns, when he was here, played as hard as he could every game or not. I don't know if he did that. But when you go to some of these bigger towns with more media, they expect you to play. Like the East Coast, if you're playing out there with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Rangers, you better play every night or there's a lot of press out there who will really get on you.
NSPS: Any predictions at this point? Who's gonna win it?
BM: If I was a betting guy, I think Pittsburgh is going to come back and beat Philadelphia, even after being down 3-0. I just think they have a better team, and now after last night's game they seem to have figured out how to play against Philly. We'll see what happens there. Other than that, I don't know. I haven't seen New Jersey play. Boston's great, you know. I think Nashville will beat Detroit.
NSPS: Nashville's my pick. Kind of an underdog pick, but even before the series started, I just feel like they've got the goalie and big time defensemen to get it done. Anyway, let's talk a little bit about your career. You had a couple of stints here, but the main one was about seven or eight years?
BM: Yeah. I was there seven years. I was a first round pick in 1977 and I came in and played until 1985. I got traded to Quebec in '85. I played half a year in Quebec and the taxes there were so hard. That's why they don't have a team anymore, because nobody wanted to play there because their taxes were pretty tough. Then I ended up in Toronto for about a year and a half. I got hurt, we were playing in Chicago one night and I tore my hamstring and I never really got back on my game after that. I went to Vancouver for about six months and was dealing with the same thing. Then the Rangers picked me up and I went there for maybe a month and a half or two months, and then I got traded back to Minnesota. That was '87, which was really great because I had a chance to play under Herb Brooks. Herbie was a great guy. I knew him from when he coached the Gophers and the USA Olympic team, but I never really got to know him that well. But playing underneath him, he was just a great, great coach. I'm glad I had a half a year under him anyway.
NSPS: What made you decide to retire? Was it the injuries?
BM: Yeah, but not only that. I played ten years. I came back and I went to training camp here in '88. I was in really good shape in camp but J.P. Parise came to me and said, "Maxy, you'd make the team," but my contract had run out. Lou Nanne had traded for a couple other defensemen in the summer and with the numbers and contracts and stuff like that... and I could have went to Washington and I should've kept playing. But it's just that I'd traveled around. In two and a half years, I had played for four teams. That seemed like a lot. And you know, you kind of lose your worth a little bit. In hockey, I think when you're a first round pick and you play for one team, you're gold, but then you get traded away a couple times and you start going from a porterhouse to a t-bone, and pretty soon you're nothing but a hamburger. Your value drops immensely once you get traded a few times. I should've kept playing but the hamstring did have a big responsibility for me retiring.
NSPS: Looking at your career stats, the year that really jumps out is the 1983-84 season. 19 goals, 54 assists, 73 points, 225 penalty minutes. Career highs across the board. What was different that season?
|Autographed 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee card.|
NSPS: You would be! With those stats, you'd probably be a Norris Trophy winner!
BM: Yeah, I think what is was, Dan, is that year Lou Nanne had hired a guy named Bill Mahoney as the coach. He came in, a really down to earth guy. He was very talented, and he let me play. That was the thing with some coaches in the past, sometimes you'd take a bad penalty and they'd sit you for a few shifts and you'd get a little upset. But with Mahoney, he just let me play. He let me play power play, regular shift. I killed penalties, which I had never done under anyone else. He played me a lot. And also that year Craig Hartsburg had got hurt and he wasn't playing so I felt I had to pick up the slack a little bit. But it was just a fun year and I ended up playing in the All-Star Game. It was a good time.
NSPS: Why didn't Mahoney stick around? He was only here for a year or two, right?
BM: Well, I think what happened is that we finished first overall in our division that year and we played Chicago, who had finished fourth. And Chicago beat us out in the first round of the playoffs and that didn't go well with Louie. He wanted to win and felt he had the team to do it, so he replaced Bill, and that's what happened. There's a lot of good coaches that have had one really good year and then maybe they go through a tough start the next season and the general manager just gives up on you and finds somebody new to put in there.
NSPS: You got into a few spars on the ice during your career...
BM: A couple.
NSPS: Did you have a favorite guy to fight?
BM: Not really. I never wanted to fight, you know? I wanted to play. But back in those days each team had six to eight physical players. So you'd get in a game and maybe somebody took a cheap shot at Dino. You'd jump in there and help support your goal scorers. And you'd go in there and then you'd have to fight (Al) Secord or fight (Stan) Jonathan. Then there's (Terry) O'Reilly, and it just kind of keeps going. I really didn't want to play that way, but my dad told me when I first got into the league, "If somebody looks at you sideways, you might as well hit him first. You can always say sorry when he's on the ground."
NSPS: That's good fatherly advice!
BM: I thought it was!
NSPS: Well, since you mentioned him, one of the Facebook page fans, Mike Rendahl, wants me to ask you if Secord still sucks?
BM: Well... yeah. Lori told me you were going to ask me that. It's really funny because it was such a great rivalry. A lot of that stuff is showmanship, but you know Al's a really nice guy. I can remember after I retired, I think it was in about 1990, we went to Calgary. There was a 3-on-3 event they had up in Calgary and Donnie Beaupre and I, and Timmy Young and some other guys from here went up there to play, and Chicago was supported by Secord and (Steve) Larmer and (Denis) Savard. And we're in the same locker room getting dressed and talking just like you would anybody else. There were no grudges or whatever. What happened on the ice just kind of stayed on the ice. But I think if you talked to Dino, he'd probably be the one to ask about Secord. He probably wouldn't say good stuff. But I don't think I ever had a fight with Al. I think we squared off a couple times but nothing ever happened. It was more mutual respect, I guess.
NSPS: I've heard he's actually a good guy.
BM: If you can believe it, now I think he's an airline pilot. Delta or something. You don't want to lip off your pilot when you're flying with him.
NSPS: You're now in the custom cabinet and fireplace mantel business. How long have you been doing that?
BM: I've been doing that since about '89. I had a really good friend who owned a brick company in Plymouth, and when I quit playing he offered me a job. So I went and sold brick and sold gas fireplaces for a couple of years. Then I wanted to do something on my own and I just kind of started doing fireplace mantles. It was back when builders were building mega-houses. Within two years I had 50 builders that I was just doing fireplace mantles and marble surrounds for, and I kind of grew into doing bookshelves and entertainment centers for people. And after all this time, I've started doing kitchens too, but I still do a little bit of everything. Fireplace mantles, bars, entertainment centers. All sorts of stuff.
NSPS: Did you have a background in that before you started the business?
BM: I did not. I had no education. I just have always been the type of person who, when I look at something, I can pick it up and make it work. Guys always used to bug me about my hockey sticks because I used to work on my sticks all the time. It was back when they weren't fiberglass or weren't the synthetic blades. They were wood blades and you could shave them up, you could curve them. Back then on game days I would spend an hour or two fixing a half-dozen sticks for the game that night. So people always said to me, "When you get out of hockey, you'll probably do something in the wood business." My dad was really handy, too. He did a lot of things and I learned a lot from him. But I just kind of picked it up as I went along.
NSPS: And how's business?
BM: Business is good. It's all word of mouth. I don't advertise, but I give away tons of business cards to people. Friends of friends of friends. The other day I did a job for a guy who I did an entertainment center for about 14 years ago. He called me up and wanted to remodel it a little bit. People keep my name and my cards and refer me to a lot of their friends. It's really nice. And their kids are getting older, so people who I did stuff for 15 to 20 years ago, I'm doing stuff for their kids now. It works out great!
NSPS: The North Stars Reunion has passed, but the Minnesota NHL Alumni Association is still busy. I saw you just announced your 2012 golf event.
BM: July 12 in Hastings. Yeah, we get rid of one thing and we get to jump on something else! The reunion is over so now I get to deal with the golf tournament. And Lori does a lot of work. She helps out the Alumni immensely, keeps me on track, keeps me aware of the things I need to do. So I'm working on that and I'm also getting started on working on some other stuff that might be more up your alley. You know, when the North Stars went to Dallas, they took a lot of our North Star property. So I'm getting started working on and trying to finalize how I'm going to go about seeing if I can get some of that memorabilia back from Dallas. I don't know why they would want it. I know that when Lou Nanne wrote his book he went down there with Bob Showers and they went and sat in a room and looked at all these photographs and started talking... you know Louie didn't remember everything until he looked at some of that stuff.
I know Dallas has a new owner now. A Canadian guy. Maybe he'll feel like he might want to give it back to us. We don't want to sell it or anything, we just want to protect it. I think of it as kind of our heritage. With all the guys that are here, we have a great alumni. Our alumni is one of the strongest in the United States. I know Canada has a lot of teams that are still playing that have great alumnis, but for not having a team for a long time now, I feel like Minnesota NHL Alumni has done pretty well. We've got a good nucleus of guys. So that's something I'm trying to do. I feel like I should go after it and see where I can get with it. Hopefully I can get Neal Broten to help. Neal played in Dallas and he knows (Stars GM) Joe Nieuwendyk, so maybe we can get a little help out of that. Hopefully we can rectify it, get some of it back. If we can ever get it back, I'd like to display it somewhere and have people come look at it. I know there's just a ton of pictures that they have and it would be great to see them.
NSPS: That would be terrific. It belongs up here. And I know there's not a lot of stuff around, and even for the Reunion, Shaun at Fan HQ was having trouble finding good photos of some of the guys for the autograph signing. In some cases, we ended up using small photos that we found in old yearbooks or postcards and blew them up to 8 x 10s, and that's really the only thing we could do.
BM: Yeah, I saw some of that stuff they had and I thought it was great. But I thought about that and I thought I'd see what I can do from the inside and see if they're going to keep all of that. I don't know why they would want it. They won a Stanley Cup at one time, so they kind of have their own identity now. I just don't want to see it going in the garbage someday, or see somebody selling it on eBay to make a buck out of it. So I'm going to take a look at it and see if I can do something.
NSPS: I wish you luck on that. It would be great to have back here to preserve. Do you want to talk a little bit about what the Alumni Association does?
BM: Sure. The Minnesota NHL Alumni is a non-profit. We're a 501(c)(3). We raise money with everything we do and we give it all away at the end of the year. We're not in it for profit. We don't pay our guys to do anything. And that's one of the things that I'm proud about, being a member of the Alumni, is that throughout our organization nobody gets anything. I don't pay myself. I don't pay my wife for the work that she does. We have some people to do the bookkeeping and it's all a donation of time. Our Alumni guys, they come out and give back. And that's a great feeling, to call up Phil Housley and say, "Phil, would you play in this game for me or do this appearance for me?" and he'll say sure. If they can fit it in their schedule, they'll jump in. Joe Dziedzic, Shjon Podein, all the same. These guys are just a bunch of great guys. They believe in the organization and they believe in what we're doing and they have a great time once they get there. They get out in the public a little bit, they keep their game going. Shjon Podein has his own charity that he works with, Team 25.
We get out and play about 12 to 14 games a year for charity around the state. We'll go in to Highland Park or St. Louis Park and play a game with the coaches or something like that, just to help them raise money for their organizations. It's a nice deal. That's what we're about. Raising money and giving back in the state of Minnesota.
NSPS: You help out some former players, too, correct?
BM: We do. We offer a player program to help former players when they're in need. We've helped a couple of guys, but fortunately that's all we've had to. There's also a national NHL Alumni up in Toronto and they have some great programs for helping guys out. Nowadays there's all these concussions and things like that, but fortunately I haven't had to deal with that too much. There's a couple of guys I've tried to help through the national side.
NSPS: Didn't you give away some scholarships, too?
BM: We had some scholarships and we couldn't even give them away. We were putting money into these things and a hard time finding people to give them to. This was back when Tom Reid was the president. In the last couple of years we haven't had that program, but before that we had about five or six programs. We had a committee that were going around, calling people, saying "We'd like to give you a scholarship," but we couldn't give them away to them. I won't tell you who they were, but that really surprised me. So we've kind of changed that up a bit. In the last few years we've donated to Defending the Blue Line, to the Minnesota Warriors. We kind of switched our focus a little bit. But it's new every year and we welcome anybody to come to the Minnesota NHL Alumni website or our Facebook page and post something on there if they feel they would like us to look at them. We're kind of getting to the point now, I think, where we're going to start opening up to not just the hockey side of it, but getting into some of the other great charities. There's tons of great charities out there that we could donate to. We kind of have to look at all of that and I think we're going to start looking harder at going into some different areas.
NSPS: I know I've taken up a lot of your time, but if you have a couple more minutes I wanted to try getting to a couple other questions that some fans had posted for you on Facebook. This first one is something that I see a lot on the page. A fan named Mike Tanner says "The only way to preserve the Minnesota North Stars is for the Wild to change their name to the North Stars." I'm sure you've heard that from people before asking "Why don't they just change their name?" So my question for you is this: hypothetically, if that ever were to happen -- or even if they just got the rights to the logo and jerseys and occasionally wore them as throwbacks -- as somebody who played for the North Stars, how would you feel if you saw the Wild wearing a North Stars sweater?
BM: Well, I think it would be great. Like I've said, I think the name belongs in Minnesota. It belongs here just as much as the Vikings or Twins or Timberwolves. And I've said this before, with the way these politicians are playing around with the Vikings stadium, if we lose the Vikings it should come back to the politicians who let them go. I don't want to go too far on that subject. But I do believe the North Stars logo belongs in Minnesota. You wouldn't take the Bruins out of Boston. Some things are just supposed to be there and I think the North Stars should be there. If they could get the rights, I would love to see the Wild turn around and start wearing the North Stars logo or jersey. But I think the bottom line is that ticket sales would be greater if they did change their name and come back. Not everybody's in love with the Minnesota Wild and if they wanted to turn around and come back as the Minnesota North Stars, I think that would be fine with a lot of us. I think it would be great to see that.
But, you know, at this point in time, with them being here this long, it would be a big undertaking for that to happen. I don't know if the league would let it happen. But I don't understand why you couldn't have both the Minnesota North Stars and the Dallas Stars. If you had two teams named Stars, what's the difference?
NSPS: Baseball has both the Red Sox and White Sox. I agree with you. I feel like for a long time the Wild didn't need it because they had that honeymoon period where every game was sold out for however many years it was. But they're not winning now, they haven't been to the playoffs in four or five years, and you can see from how the attendance has dropped off now that, unless they start winning, that honeymoon period is over.
BM: I think you can look to our economy, too. That has a big effect on it. Going to a Wild hockey game for a husband and wife is not a cheap night anymore. It's an expensive night. And you can look to 2005 or 2006 when everything kind of got set back here in the United States with the banks, and that's hurt a lot of people. And if you think "It's gonna cost me $250 to take my wife to a hockey game tonight," I think a lot of people are deciding not to do it. And I don't know if a name change is going to make any difference. It's what it is, I guess.
NSPS: One of the other questions from Facebook has to do with rivalries. You had that great rivalry with the Blackhawks, but the Wild have never had that arch-nemesis. Do you think that's something that would help ticket sales, if realignment happened?
|Dan Cote and Maxy at North Stars Reunion Closing Ceremony.|
That's one of the biggest questions, I think, one of the problems... when I talk to J.P. Parise about his son Zach. The Wild and fans are all gung-ho that he's gonna come here, but if you take a look at the travel side of it, if you're to play a game in Vancouver it's a three day trip. You go there the day before, then you have the day of the game, then you come back the next day. If you play out with the Islanders and Pittsburgh and Philly, these guys go to the rink in the morning and get on a plane, and come back right after the game. So they may live in Pittsburgh, but they go play in Philadelphia and then they're back in their own bed in Pittsburgh that night. That makes a big difference on the family side if a player has a family and kids. To a player, that's appealing. Would you rather play one game and have it take three days or play one game in a 24 hour span? And then you look at the rivalry side of it, and look at how Pittsburgh plays Philadelphia and how the Islanders play the Rangers. There is something there. I know the Wild have spoke to the league a little bit about it. I've heard talk about it, and the league really doesn't seem to be in favor of it. And I don't understand why. You need the rivalry in hockey. That's what's going to bring the fans back and get them into the stadium. You know, if Chicago hadn't been in the Norris Division back when we played, people wouldn't still be talking about how "Secord sucks." Because if you only play the team once, you really don't care. But it would be a great thing for the Wild if they could get back in a division with them and cut the travel time. That would be phenomenal for these guys to be able to go play a game and come home at night. It really makes a lot of sense.
NSPS: Getting back to the golf tournament, do you have any player confirmations to announce yet?
BM: We'll have our local guys, they all come and play. I know last year Neal Broten played. I'm going to invite some of the guys to come in from out of town. I know Willi likes to play so I'll invite him and see if he can come. Sometimes it works out, but when you get into summer like that, they've got their own stuff going, so it's a little tougher. But we'll have our local alumni. Other than that, I don't know if the Twins play on July 12, if those guys could to come out to play a round of golf. I know it's a great thing that Shaun (from Fan HQ) did on Facebook when he had Gardy and Mauer and Morneau wear the North Stars hats. That was awesome. Maybe the Twins will let those guys come out and play golf for a day. We'd love to have guys like that, Twins and Vikings and stuff. We really don't know, we're in the early stages of planning it. We'll open it up but we really don't know until a month in advance or three weeks in advance who we'll actually have.
Linkage:Brad Maxwell Custom Cabinets & Fireplace Mantels