10 questions with Kerry Fraser
Legendary NHL referee Kerry Fraser was vacationing with his family at the Marriott’s Surf Club on Palm Beach in Aruba when KTW caught up with him.
While some tourists outside were wearing hats to shield their hair from the wind — which was gusting at about 50 km/h — Fraser was doing nothing of the sort.
“There’s a strong, warm breeze in the trade winds and my hair still doesn’t move,” said Fraser, who will be at Bookland (750 Fortune Dr.) in North Kamloops at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, to promote his autobiography, The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes.
Fraser, 58, has about 30 years’ worth of stories to tell about the most skilled, colourful and controversial NHL characters.
The book gives fans access to what happens on the ice, in the tunnels and in the locker rooms, where public access is not always granted.
“The fans always wanted to know more,” Fraser said.
“They bought a ticket, but the closest they could get was on the other side of the glass.
“It’s all about sharing the tremendous career that I had and the ability to skate on the ice with some of the best players that the game has ever known.”
In addition to signing books, Fraser will speak about the state of the NHL at Bookland, where The Final Call will be sold at 20 per cent off its regular price.
After he’s done, Fraser will answer questions from those in attendance.
KTW had a 10-question survey of its own for Fraser:
1. Most respectful player — “Doug Wilson, former captain of the Chicago Blackhawks and current general manager of the San Jose Sharks. He was really a class act. Also, one of the most gentlemanly was Igor Larionov. They call him the professor.”
2. Lippiest player — “Without question, Bernie Federko, the old Saskatoon Blade. His own guys used to tell him to shut up. We had back-to-back games together and, on the second night, before puck drop, he was already swearing at me. I said, ‘At least let me drop the puck’. He said, ‘Ah, f--- off and drop the f------ puck.’”
3. Dirtiest player — “Tiger Williams. There’s a story in the book about when I gave him a match penalty when he snapped his stick over Randy Holt’s head. The bullshit that Tiger rattled off [in a meeting with the league’s disciplinarian at the time, Brian O’Neill] was incredible. He started talking about hunting grizzly bears. His defence was, ‘That’s why I don’t use an aluminum shaft. The wooden stick breaks easy.’ I looked at him and I said, ‘Tiger, that’s the biggest load of horseshit I’ve ever heard in my life. He winked at me and he said, ‘You know what? I think O’Neill went for it.’ He got off without a suspension.
4. Best player in the NHL today — “The best player that isn’t playing is Sidney Crosby. [Alexander] Ovechkin can be when he’s on his game and [Evgeni] Malkin can be every bit as good. He always picks up his game when he’s challenged and when Crosby is out of the lineup.”
5. Most memorable game — “Without a doubt, it was the 2010 Winter Classic in Fenway Park. I also reffed the 2012 Winter Classic alumni game in Philadelphia. Bobby Clarke, even with the great career he had, was misty-eyed after the game and talked about this event being something extremely special. The common denominator is we go back to our roots, to our heritage, where we all grew up playing on outdoor rinks or ponds that froze over. We become kids again.”
6. Worst missed call — “It’s one that I didn’t see. [Wayne] Gretzky cutting [Doug] Gilmour [in overtime of Game 6 of the 1993 Campbell Conference final between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings]. It had the most potential impact on a game and a series, in spite of the fact that Game 7 went back to Toronto. Gretzky put on a show in Game 7.”
7. Most embarrassing moment — One night in L.A., a player was tripped about 10 feet inside the blue-line. As soon as my whistle blew, the linesman blew his whistle late for an offside. It should have blown 10 feet ago. We were in the Staples Centre and Terry Murray was coaching the Kings. I went to him and said, ‘Terry, there’s no way I’m going to call that penalty because the trip was of no consequence and play should have been killed. In football, they call it an inadvertent flag. Tonight, we’re going to call it an inadvertent arm.’ I made an announcement on the P.A. system and called it an inadvertent arm.”
8. Hair product used — “Paul Mitchell Freeze and Shine.”
9. Should visors be mandatory? — “Yes, based on Chris Pronger’s injury and others, like Bryan Berard. You can’t replace an eye. Most of the players coming into the league wore visors in junior. It’s not foreign to them. There would probably need to be a grandfather clause, like in 1979 when all rookie players that came in had to wear a helmet. Do the same sort of thing with visors.”
10. Should fighting be banned? — “Given all the medical evidence that’s become available on long-term effects of concussions, I don’t think I would be responsible to say hitting in the head is not OK, but punching someone in the head is OK. I’m a very strong proponent of eliminating head shots. The hitting culture has changed dramatically. Players are demonstrating such lack of respect for their opponent. I think we really have to examine it. I know that it’s part of the tradition of the game and it’s between two willing combatants, but the effect is still the same. The end result can ultimately be the same, which is long-term difficulties, dementia and CTE [Chronic traumatic encephalopathy]. We’ve got to get rid of it.”
A Kamloops memory
Fraser left KTW with a story about the Tournament Capital, circa 1973.
“I was reffing a Western Canada Hockey League game [at Memorial Arena] and I thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t breathe and there was tightness in my chest. I spent two days in the Kamloops hospital. It turns out it was the Zamboni that you had. It was giving off toxic fumes and I got carbon-monoxide poisoning.”
• Fraser will be officiating the Oldtimers’ Hockey Challenge, which gets underway at Interior Savings Centre at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22. A travelling group of former NHL stars will face the Kamloops Media All-Stars, “I hope they’ve changed the Zamboni,” Fraser said. “If they didn’t, I’m wearing a gas mask.”