Maxwell’s jersey hangs on the locker room before an NHL alumni game between former North Stars and Blackhawks. PHOTO COURTESY OF VINTAGE MINNESOTA HOCKEY

‘He had everybody’s back’

The Minnesota North Stars lost a member of their family Sept. 3 when former defenseman and NHL All-Star Brad Maxwell passed away after a battle with lung cancer.

Maxwell was 66.

Maxwell was born in Brandon, Manitoba and was drafted seventh overall by the North Stars in 1977. A tough defenseman who could also rush the puck and had a heavy shot, Maxwell is remembered as a consummate teammate who always had his teammates backs.

“You always felt a little safer with Maxy on the ice with you,” said former teammate Curt Giles. “He was always there for support. He really cared about his teammates a lot.”

Maxwell played nine seasons with the North Stars beginning in 1977. During his rookie campaign he played in 75 games and scored 18 goals and had 29 assists. He was a member of the North Stars team that faced the New York Islanders in the 1980-81 Stanley Cup Finals. His best season came in 1983-84 when he had 73 points in 78 games.

“He was a very good player,” said Giles. “He could shoot the puck. He could really hammer that thing. He was on the power play and was killing penalties. And he played tough.”

Maxwell had a heavy shot and was a mainstay on both the power play and penalty kill.

Maxwell logged 225 penalty minutes during the 1983-84 campaign. Giles said he always stuck up for his teammates. In an interview shortly after he was drafted, Maxwell said, “I know defensemen have to play defense and I think I can help the North Stars in front of the goal,” Maxwell said, according to ESPN. “I’ll be there. But I also like to make rushes. All I want is a chance to play. I’ll be there if anyone challenges me or goes after anybody else on the team.”

Giles said having Maxwell on the ice helped open up opportunities for some of the smaller guys on the team like Giles, Neal Broten and Dino Ciccarelli. 

“He was awfully tough,” he said. “His attitude and approach to the game was great. It didn’t matter if we were on the road in Philadelphia or Boston or at home…he always played the same. He stuck up for his teammates the same way.”

Maxwell wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves, either. Known for having a heavy left fist, he was a protector on those teams for the smaller guys.

“You knew which guys in the league were good at (fighting),” said Giles. “There was a switch that went off and he had that switch. He always stuck up for everybody.”

Gordie Roberts played against Maxwell in juniors and then joined him on the North Stars for the 1980-81 season. He echoed Giles’ comments about Maxwell always being there for his teammates.

“In hockey you gain respect from teammates with physical play and he did that by helping out his teammates in those physical situations,” Roberts said. “Brad was tough and he had everybody’s back.”

Roberts said Maxwell was one of the rare defenseman who were both tough, but also offensively gifted.

“He had great balance to his game,” he said. “He had it all.”

Maxwell, playing in a packed Met Center, was always a reliable defender. PHOTO COURTESY OF VINTAGE MINNESOTA HOCKEY

Roberts said Maxwell could have played in any era. 

“He had a little bit of old time hockey in him,” he said. “He had a good sense of humor and enjoyed himself not just on the ice but off the ice. He was a fun guy to be around.”

In the locker room, Giles said Maxwell was “great with everybody.”

Giles recalled the time he challenged Maxwell to a wrestling match in the locker room.

“That was a bad idea,” he said. “I thought I’d give him a whirl and then he got serious and I thought whoa that’s enough of that.”

In his later years Maxwell was head of the NHL Alumni Association in Minnesota and played an integral role in helping organize events that helped bring old teammates together. 

“We played in a lot of alumni charity games,” said Roberts, “and Brad was always right in the middle organizing it.”

Maxwell (center) with teammates Don Beaupre (left) and Gordie Roberts (right). PHOTO COURTESY OF VINTAGE MINNESOTA HOCKEY

Roberts said he will always remember Maxwell as charismatic.

“He was always excited to see his hockey friends,” he said. “He had a good enthusiasm about him and truly cared about the players he played with.”

Giles said he and Maxwell stayed in touch over the years.

“He was always the same guy,” Giles said. “He always lived life to the fullest.”

Giles said he will miss Maxwell’s sense of humor, and is thankful for their playing days together.

 “I can’t say enough how much I appreciated having him as a teammate,” he said.