Patrick Reusse
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The Minnesota Fighting Saints folded for the second time on Jan. 20, 1977. This put Glen Sonmor back in the job market and he was hired to be general manager and coach of the Birmingham Bulls, preparing to play a second season in the World Hockey Association.

The 1977 NHL draft was held on June 14 and the North Stars took defenseman Brad Maxwell at No. 7 in the first round. Two days later, the WHA draft was held, and the Bulls selected Maxwell at No. 12, the top of the second round.

John Bassett, the high-voltage owner of the Bulls, was quick to make a generous offer, and Maxwell got on a flight from Canada to Birmingham to sign the deal.

Legend has it, Bassett had a band, civic leaders and Miss Alabama waiting for Maxwell to disembark in Birmingham.

Except the North Stars, running low on funds then but not willing to suffer this embarrassment, flew team staff to Chicago, waited for Maxwell and his companions to switch planes and matched (or surpassed) the Bulls' offer.

Which meant, rather than coaching Maxwell in the Bulls' final season of existence in 1977-78, Sonmor would wind up coaching Maxwell from early in the 1978-79 season and for several years to follow with the North Stars.

A good time was had by all there at Met Center, with Sonmor's fiery coaching, and Maxwell's fiery two-way play, and so many standouts — Dino Ciccarelli, Bobby Smith, Neal Broten, Craig Hartsburg, Tim Young, Tommy McCarthy, Steve Payne, Al MacAdam, Gordie Roberts, Steady Freddie Barrett, Curt Giles, Gilles Meloche, Donnie Beaupre …

It leaves the question, "Why didn't we win the Cup up here?" And there's an answer, of course: The New York Islanders.

What's gotten sad is that when we're reminded of the assembled talent —"Too much," young hockey boss Lou Nanne was alleged to have uttered — it has been because of a death coming way ahead of schedule.

In April 2022, McCarthy died of an aortic aneurysm while in Mexico at age 61. And this week, it was Maxwell, exceptional one-timer shot on the power play, potent left hook in a fight, here in Minnesota, at age 66 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

"We were 17 and playing against each other in Western juniors," Roberts said. "I was with the Victoria Cougars and he was playing for the New Westminster Bruins. We were archrivals, separated by a 24-mile ferry ride.

"Brad's defensive partner was Barry Beck, who would be a No. 2 overall pick in the NHL draft. Those were some battles.

"Brad had a big shot and toughness. He was a character. Every day, he said this — 'Work hard, play hard' — and that's what he lived."

Ciccarelli was getting ready to play in a celebrity golf tournament in the Detroit area Tuesday.

"Calling about Maxie, aren't you?" Ciccarelli said. "I came in as a rookie in 1981 and he was one of the guys showing me the ropes. He always had my back."

Dino paused and said: "And that one-timer … get ready for a rebound when he fired that thing."

Beaupre had the same feeling: If someone took an unnecessary whack at the goalie, Maxwell would soon arrive.

"Or Freddie Barrett. Or Jack Carlson … no one tougher," Beaupre said. "Maxie was a righthanded shot, and when he landed that first left hook, it surprised a lot of guys."

On April 9, 1981, the other guy was Boston's Stan Jonathan. "That guy had the hardest head ever,'' Carlson said.

The Stars were up 1-0 at Boston in a best three-of-five series. The Bruins tried to turn Game 2 into a war.

Six minutes in, Jonathan took a run at Maxwell. And there they went. The YouTube video has sound from the Bruins broadcasters. They were paying tribute to the home lad's right, and missing many well-landed Maxwell lefts.

The Stars won 9-6 and completed a three-game sweep at Met Center. On they went, until running into the Islanders' dynasty in the Stanley Cup Final.

Carlson was the closest of friends with Maxwell over their post-hockey decades in Minnesota. He was aware that, for some reason, Maxwell and Sonmor had player-coach issues.

"Brad was a great guy, and so was Glen," Carlson said. "Not sure what the source was of that."

Backing out on Birmingham? Not likely.

"Maxie came to me early in the '84 season and said, 'You have to trade me; I can't take Glen anymore,'" Nanne said. "So I traded him in mid-December, and when I saw him a couple of weeks later, Maxwell says, 'I said, "Trade me, Louie," but not to Quebec!'"

Louie laughed and said: "He actually came back here for the last games of his career in 1987. Phil Esposito was running the Rangers. When Brad asked about the trade, [Esposito said] 'I lost you in a poker game with Louie.'

"It was not true, but Brad loved telling that story."