Fred Maxwell picked up the nickname "Steamer" in his native Winnipeg because of his tremendous ability to skate. In 1910-11 he joined the Winnipeg Monarchs as a rover in the Manitoba Senior League, scored six goals in five regular season games, and was named to the league's second All-Star team. The next year he tallied seven goals in seven games for the Monarchs.
By 1913 he was offered a $1,500 contract to play for the Toronto Blueshirts of the NHA but refused the inducement, choosing to remain in Winnipeg. In 1914 the Monarchs won the Manitoba Senior Hockey title with Maxwell scoring three goals and two assists. He was then offered an $1,800 contract to play in the PCHA but again refused a professional offer and remained a pure amateur and led Winnipeg to another senior title and the Allan Cup in 1915.
Maxwell moved on to coaching and was the bench boss of the Winnipeg Falcons in 1920, winning both the Allan Cup and an Olympic gold medal that year. In 1925-26, he coached the Winnipeg Rangers to the Manitoba championship and in 1926-27 he coached the Winnipeg Maroons of the AHA, signing future-great Johnny Gottselig to his first professional contract.
By 1929-30, Maxwell was coaching the Elmwood Millionaires to both the junior and senior Manitoba championships and in 1931-32 he coached the Winnipeg Monarchs to the Memorial Cup finals, losing to the Sudbury Cub Wolves. He had been offered the coaching position with the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the start of the year but later believed that he didn't get the post because of his demand for a lucrative and guaranteed three-year contract. The Leafs subsequently hired Dick Irvin to the post.
Maxwell's international coaching career continued in 1933-34 with the Winnipeg Monarchs; as his team won the Manitoba championships and, representing Canada, went on to win the 1935 World Championships at Davos, Switzerland.
"Steamer" kept busy officiating in senior leagues out west for 30 years from 1910 onward and worked the Memorial Cup and Allan Cup playdowns as well as professional exhibition games for the NHL, WHL, and PCHA. He organized the Arena Baseball Club in Winnipeg and was with the club as playing manager and general manager from 1908 to 1923, winning eight City League senior championships in this period.
Fred Maxwell was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.