Kerry Fraser

Friday, April 02, 2010

Kerry Fraser

The hair, it always starts and ends with the hair, somehow, someway, it’s always about the hair. The proud standard bearer for a well-coiffed lid, this father of seven, the pride of Sarnia, Ontario and the veteran of a record shattering 2,100 NHL games is known best as the guy with the hair. That’s okay, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mind, in fact, I would guess that he loves it and has come to accept it, like Alan Alda accepts he will always be Hawkeye Pierce and Mr. Clean accepts he will always be bald. I have had the privilege of watching the hair get attention before the game, as well as after the game, each with an equal amount of care. Alas, like all legends, there is always more to the story, and this one is no exception.

Kerry was hired in 1973

I clearly remember how I came to meet Kerry. It was at an officiating school in Calgary 21 years ago, it was lunch and I saw Kerry at a table and thought, when am I ever going to get a chance like this again? I nervously approached him and respectfully introduced myself, surprisingly, this man who was already legendary took an interest in what I had to say and made me feel very comfortable. Little did I know then that I would come to call him a friend and together discuss our views on life, our faith, his love of sailing, the ups and downs of our careers and shared the privilege of negotiating a Collective Bargaining Agreement [CBA] on behalf of the NHLOA. Years later, it would all come full circle as it would be me, at that lunch table at a referee school engaging the young officials who nervously approach. I have always remembered that day and how I felt and how accessible and welcoming Kerry was, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Kerry will end up with 1904 NHL regular season games

Among the lessons I learned that day was the idea that those of us fortunate enough to become NHL officials have the duty and honor of representing hockey officials everywhere and a few minutes of our time spent with amateur officials, fans, and especially children, is far more personally satisfying than anything we could ever hope to accomplish on the ice.

The statistics speak for themselves, but more important is the man, the face of NHL officials for many years, the man who cares deeply about his fellow man, the man who has seen it all, done it all and has the scars to prove it. He is the man many fans love to hate and in our business that means two things, longevity and you have worked a lot of important games; incredibly and almost masochistically, it’s something that all NHL officials strive to achieve.

Watching Kerry and spending time with him is a lesson in life itself, always personable, approachable and always sincere; he is a role model for how to be a public person in a private life. Traveling with Kerry is like watching a smooth politician work a room [except much, much more sincere] everyone wants to say hello and as brief the encounter may be, the person leaves feeling good, feeling that Kerry genuinely cared and was happy to meet them.

It takes courage and stamina to last 31 years in the NHL, it also takes a lot of heartbreak, a lot of time away from home, a lot of soul searching, and soul seeking. How one conducts themselves in times of distress is a better barometer of character than how they conduct themselves when they are on top of the world. It is always easier to look down from on top of the hill and see how you can get down than it is to look up to the top and wonder how you are ever going to get there. Kerry has seen the view from both and had the same attitude; it’s nothing that a little hard work won’t solve.

So as he makes his way from the ice to the Hall Of Fame, we are all better for knowing him, for letting a little piece of him shape us all and that is the sum of everything when I think about Kerry, hard working, earnest, a complex man with a heart of gold, compassionate, passionate and genuine, just like the hair – like I said, it always comes back to the hair.

Mike Leggo