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FAITHFUL FAN | Kerry Fraser touts hockey’s rules, God’s mercy

Retired National Hockey League referee Kerry Fraser makes it hard for people to dislike game officials.

He jokes that he was known more for his hair — always neatly in place — than his bad calls. After games, he’d often go to a restaurant with other officials, sitting with his back to the wall. He’d see people looking at him, whispering and scowling as they recognized him. Instead of turning away, he’d walk over, extend his hand and invite them to ask him questions.

At first, they may be aggressive or unkind, but the gregarious Fraser calmly and politely answered them and gradually developed a rapport, understanding and friendship. We should all be so kind to people who dislike us.

This comes from a guy who was pulled from the ice by the Boston police after a threat was made that if he skated out for the second period he would be shot.

Fraser, author of “The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes,” spent 30 years in the NHL. The 5’7” Fraser was never shy about offering an opinion or stepping in to break up an on-ice fight. He’s taken on the NHL hierarchy over player safety, calling for changes that are needed to protect players, especially in outlawing hits to players’ heads. Things are moving in the right direction, but the referees need to make tough calls to enforce safety, he stresses.

He’s also outspoken about his Catholic faith. Now a speaker with Catholic Athletes for Christ, he grew up in a family without much of a faith perspective. He talks about how the Holy Spirit and the prayers of his wife, Kathy, led him to experience God’s mercy and love and eventually to Catholicism. It brought him peace and grace, changing the way he acted on and off ice. And since his conversion in 1995, he began attending daily Mass no matter what city he was in for NHL games. The reason, Fraser told a Eucharistic Congress in Trenton, N.J., in 2012, is because the Real Presence of Jesus Christ is in the Eucharist.

God never gave up on him, he told Athletes for Christ, pointing out that God’s love and mercy are infinite with no boundaries or conditions.

He recently wrote on Twitter that he and his wife enjoyed watching the “Fatima” movie. “Our Mother is always there for us,” Fraser wrote. “A day should not pass without speaking to our Heavenly Mother to help dry her tears during these times.”

Fraser and his wife have seven children and 12 grandchildren. One of his daughters, Jamie, and her husband Ryan Carr, live in St. Louis with their children. Fraser was in St. Louis in July for his youngest grandson’s baptism.

Fraser also is inspiring for another reason. He’s 68 and a few pounds lighter than when he retired from the NHL. He touts the benefits of exercise, including bicycling.

Fraser, who started skating at 15 months old, retired at the end of the 2009-10 season and used the 72 games he officiated that season as the centerpiece of his book. Fraser entered officiating after recognizing that his size would limit his chances as a player. In his book and in his talks he tells a story of how he helped coax former St. Louis Blues player Tyson Nash apologize to Calgary Flames player Theo Fluery for remarks about Fluery’s efforts to recover from substance abuse. It meant a lot to both players. Meeting disrespect with respect is an approach that works, Fraser explains.

Fraser speaks highly of former Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan. St. Louis Blues broadcaster Joey Vitale, a Catholic like Fraser, and a teammate of Doan’s also cites the Phoenix captain’s respectful nature and Christian values.

Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.

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