It seems like almost a lifetime ago since the Los Angeles Kings defeated the NJ Devils in Game 6 on Monday, June 11 to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
My brother Rick summoned me to my home town of Sarnia, Ontario the day prior to the Kings final victory, to be with our mother, Barb who was in hospital with rapidly deteriorating health. At 6:32 PM on Monday, June 11, Barbara Fraser passed away. I offer this last C'mon Ref article as a postscript to the 2011-12 hockey season and in memorial to our mother as a testimony to her life and to all the "Hockey Moms" that can have a tremendous impact on their children as young athletes and later as contributing adults.
Mom became a loyal fan of the game of hockey in 1949 when she met and fell in love with Hilt Fraser who was playing semi-professional hockey in the International Hockey League (IHL) at the time. They married and I was their first born in May of 1952. They had me on skates when I was 15 months old and went onto the ice before Dad's team practices.
Brother Rick was born two years later and he took to the ice once he could walk as well. Dad built a rink in the backyard and carried us in for supper where Mom had laid newspapers beneath our chairs to catch the melting snow from our skate blades and to protect the floor. Following dinner we were carried back onto the rink until the flood lights flickered which was our signal it was time for bed.
We skated on future NHL star defenceman Pat "Whitey" Stapleton's rink up the street as well. It is my opinion that along with Bill White, the two former Chicago Blackhawks formed one of the greatest defence pairings in the history of the NHL.
Barb was the consummate hockey mom. She kept us organized and balanced with schedules of a husband who coached one team and two children who played at different All-Star levels. We were truly a Canadian Hockey family and it was Barb that was the Captain of our team.
Mom attended all the games in support of her two boys and loudly cheered and on occasion yelled at the refs for their decisions! She continued that practice whenever she thought I made a bad call once I became a referee but was always quick to defend her son if anyone else dared complain.
Following my infamous "missed call" (Gretzky high stick on Doug Gilmour) in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final in 1993, Mom was subjected to ongoing obscene telephone calls that were placed to their home by irate Leafs fans. Rather than curse back, Barb hung one of my referee whistles on a skate lace by the phone and blasted it into the receiver the moment the profanity began. The calls gradually subsided but Mom kept the whistle at the ready even after my retirement from the ice at the end of the 2010 season and the Rangers-Flyers game she attended.
I called "Whitey" Stapleton to inform him of Mom's passing. He answered the telephone as he always does with, "Hockey Heaven, St. Peter speaking!" This time my response was, "St. Peter, Kerry Fraser here. I just wanted to inform you that you have a new "season ticket" holder. Barb Fraser has purchased the Eternity Plan!" Whitey has been a terrific friend of our family over the many years and joined friends and family at Mom's funeral.
Mom's 'hockey family' resulted from special events shared with some of her favourite NHL stars Pat Lafontaine, Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky. She affectionately referred to them as her "little sweethearts".
One of Mom's favourite pictures on display at home and at her nursing home this past year was one taken of her with Wayne Gretzky at the 1990 All-Star game in Pittsburgh.
Barb Fraser was a true hockey fan and hockey mom right to the end. I saw her courage demonstrated throughout difficult times in her life and as she struggled with failing health over the past two years. Courage, integrity and conviction are just some of the qualities that can be passed down from a "Hockey Mom."