The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes

The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes


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After almost two thousand games and thirty years of wearing the Stripes, legendary NHL official Fraser dropped his final puck at the end of the 2009/2010 season and relives his colourful career officiating hockey in his candid book.

After thirty years in the NHL, legendary referee Kerry Fraser has decided to hang up his skates and enjoy the game from the other side of the boards. Never shy about offering his opinion, nor afraid to step in and separate an on-ice fight, the diminutive Fraser is without question one of the most respected officials in today's NHL. Fraser entered officiating after recognizing that his size would limit his chances as a player. Over the course of the almost two thousand NHL contests, he has shown himself to be an exemplary referee. In The Final Call, Fraser uses the seventy two games he is officiating in his farewell season as the centre piece of his story. He relives candid memories from each city he visits, such as the night he 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 offers a colourful, behind-the-scenes portrait of our national game, recounting stories of pulling apart enraged 250-lb men in on-ice battles and divulging the politics behind which games are assigned to which refs. Although a referee's job and story may not appear as glamorous as that of a superstar player, it is every bit as entertaining!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780771047985
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication date: 11/15/2011
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 131,215
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

KERRY FRASER, born May 30, 1952, in Sarnia, Ontario, is the most senior referee in the National Hockey League. He joined the NHL Officials Association on September 1, 1973, and officiated his first game in the 1980-81 season. He will retire from officiating after the 2009-10 season. Fraser lives in New Jersey.

Read an Excerpt

The relatively short walk along the rubber mat from the officials’ dressing room to the ice at the Wachovia Center, home of the Philadelphia Flyers, seems longer today. The kind word and pat on the back I always receive from Louie, our dressing-room-door attendant, is softer than usual. It has the feel of an affectionate gesture, the kind extended when old friends part company, not knowing when (or if) they’ll see each other again.
This is the final day of another regular season, my 30th in the National Hockey League and 34th as a contracted NHL referee. But it’s not just another season; this will be my last!
Just two and a half hours from now, the 2009–10 season, and I will be swept out of the building along with the popcorn boxes, empty beer cups, and other refuse the patrons will have discarded. It is difficult for me to comprehend that time has passed so quickly. With each stride, I recall the tremendous excitement of my very first NHL game as a referee.
Thoughts of that night—October 17, 1980, in Denver, as the Colorado Rockies hosted the Minnesota North Stars—fuse with the bittersweet emotion I now feel. My mind spins out of control as I try to connect the dots of all the games between my first and last. I’m overwhelmed for a moment, then reality takes hold and the analytical part of my brain tells me to check these thoughts along with the rising wave of emotion.
The shrill whistle from the lips of John Malandra, the NHL’s security representative, clears the way past the Zamboni, where the ice crew and ushers have formed a sort of receiving line or honour guard. Stepping onto the polished floor of my office for the 1,904th time (an NHL record), I feel the buzz of the capacity crowd of 19,536. They are at the ready, poised to erupt in unison when their heroes take to the ice from either dressing room. Competition between the rival groups of partisans had already begun in the pre-game warm-up, the chants of “Let’s go, Rangers” being drowned out by the sheer numbers of vocal cords countering with “Let’s go, Flyers.” So far, it appears that no fights have taken place in the stands. This afternoon’s game has assumed the magnitude of a Game Seven, as the winners will capture the final Eastern Conference playoff spot while the losers will break out their golf clubs earlier than expected.
Depending on the tone that the game takes, I suspect that violence between fans will be a foregone conclusion. (Fortunately, we on-ice officials won’t be called on to break it up.) The passion the fans from these two cities feel for their respective teams, and the animosity they demonstrate for each other, whether on the football field, the baseball diamond, or in the hockey arena, runs deep. And hockey fans are a special breed, one that takes team loyalty to a whole different level, especially when it comes to the Flyers and the Rangers.
When this type of energy is generated by the hockey faithful, it spurs athletes and officials alike to reach their peak of performance. I feel the juice running through my soon-to-be-58-year-old-body (considered ancient in this occupation) as I take my first turn around the Wachovia ice. The first lap is always the litmus test as to how my body feels and will respond to the demands that I am about to make on it. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned to utilize my internal thermometer to gauge the physical and emotional signals my body sends me. When necessary, I use positive self-talk to overcome any deficiencies that I detect, whether it is a lack of energy, heavy legs, aches, pains, or a need for heightened awareness and mental focus. The brain is the strongest muscle I have packed into my diminutive frame. Today, mission control tells me that all systems are go. My blades glide effortlessly over the ice as I fly around the 200-by-85-foot surface with the enthusiasm of a rookie.
Looking at the excited faces on the other side of the glass, I recognize many that are familiar. There are no lingering gazes today, however, as I quickly scan past the masses to find the box where my wife, Kathy, our children, grandchildren, and other family members are located. I catch a glimpse of them standing and waving, cheering on their hero. A tear forms in my eye as I consider the love and pride I feel for each of them—and them for me.
I’m transported back to a magical evening spent last night at our home with Kathy, all of our seven children and their spouses, five grandchildren and other extended family. We are joined by my fellow officials for this game: referee Kelly Sutherland, linesmen Don Henderson and Darren Gibbs, and their wives. It was a casual and relaxed evening, sharing a barbecue, but the love that our family feels for one another was clearly demonstrated and visible to our first-time guests. Throughout the evening, we shared stories and laughter. From time to time, each of the officials would remark on the magnitude of this game and the opportunity we were being given in this final moment of my career. I was presented with beautiful, heartfelt gifts from my family and friends, and I was deeply touched by all the love our home held.
The evening ended at a reasonable hour, all of us knowing full well the importance of the game at three o’clock the next afternoon. The NY Rangers had beaten the Flyers the night before at Madison Square Garden creating a tie for the final playoff spot between the two rival franchises. The entire regular season boiled down to this one last game and had all the makings of a Cinderella story.
Our house overflowed with laughter and music as my brother Rick and our sons Ryan and Matthew played their guitars and sang well past midnight, though by then I had long since retired for the evening. I would sleep restlessly, but my final thought as I dozed off was how blessed I was, not only to have had this magnificent career, but more importantly, the love and devotion of a very special family.
When I awoke, in the still-dark room, on Sunday morning, I realized I had guests with me, ones who hadn’t been formally invited yet are always welcome. They came from another place and a previous time in my life. Now that I think of it, they’ve always been there to guide me.
My father was the first of them, followed by John McCauley, my mentor, former colleague, and NHL director of officiating. They were joined by Chief Dennis Ryan, the NHL’s former security representative for the New York Rangers—I knew who he’d be cheering for—and his son-in-law Mikey O’Laughlin, a former security representative for the New Jersey Devils who had succumbed to an horrendous form of cancer, leaving his wife, Mary Katherine, and their young children behind. I felt their presence, and I recognized them. I was startled by it all; I also had the sense that, while their visit was supportive and friendly, it was stirring up emotions that I couldn’t allow to carry me away. I had to focus on the task at hand: the game. I pushed them aside in my thoughts and extended an invitation to visit another time.
Then I heard two of our granddaughters, Madyn and baby Daryn, enjoying the morning excitement of waking up in Mama and Papa’s house for the first time. It made me smile, but it also reminded me that, as I had been forced to do when I sent the visitors away, I needed to insulate myself from all distractions until after the game. I quickly showered and dressed and told Kathy I was heading off, alone, to Mass—the Feast of Divine Mercy—and that I would see her after the game.
My equipment bag had been packed the night before, and it sat waiting for me at the back door, as did a second duffle bag containing the nine number-two jerseys I would wear that day. I wanted my kids to be able to share this moment with me forever, so I planned on changing in the penalty box during every commercial time out so that I could give each a game-worn jersey. My waiting bags were a common sight for the Fraser family, but on this solemn morning I grabbed them to leave one last time and waved goodbye to Kathy and the kids. At that moment, they stopped what they were doing amid the usual bustle of a weekend morning, their heads popping out from various rooms and activities to wish me good luck. I turned and met the teary eyes of each of them; their sadness began to materialize for me, too. But I had to hold back that flood, so I quickly exited the house.
I went by myself to church, followed by breakfast alone at a local diner, and then off to the rink. As I pulled into the players’ parking lot, my phone beeped with a text message that had been sent at 11:34 a.m. It read: “Congratulations to u and your family on an outstanding career! U without question made the game better! Best wishes to u on the next step of life! 99.” The peace I had gained at morning Mass was immediately replaced with an adrenaline rush, thanks to that message from Wayne Gretzky.

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The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
ANeumann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a very easy read with some funny anecdotes. Overall, it's not a bad book, just not that compelling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perfect book to read if ur sport is hockey
gcs More than 1 year ago
I totally differ with the other reviews posted. I couldn't get through the first chapter - it was all about Kerry, Kerry, Kerry. So I figure I'll just read the chapter about the Red Wings, as I'm a fan and live in the area. Big mistake. Kerry must have been at the NBA Championship in Chicago when he wrote this - "we drove past burning cars and looters." This did happen after the Bulls won in 1997, but NOT in Detroit. I spoke with several people who were at Game 4. We are in agreement - there was only public urination, no looting, no burning. Even USA Today stated the celebration was peaceful. The only reason I gave it one star - it's required. Put a big minus in front of my star.
yakfishnick More than 1 year ago
A great perspective from the other side of the hockey story. Great stories from the game woven together with Kerry's experience. Finished it in two days. Thanks Mr. Fraser for sharing your experience!
eyevet More than 1 year ago
I have been waiting eagerly for this book since I knew of its publication, and after an easy couple of days read, I found that the wait was worthwhile. I believe any hockey fan will enjoy the insights and wonderful stories about hockey's famous and not so famous, as well as what it is really like to officiate the fast paced, hard hitting game of professional ice hockey. If you love the game, this insightful and intertaining memoir is a must. if you're not a fan, it is still a must read that will provide a window into the life of one of the most enduring and revered referees in the history of the NHL. This book will bring not only a smile to your face, but also may bring a tear to your eye. When I finished reading the compelling recollections of Kerry Fraser, I found myself wanting more. Thanks Kerry for putting the same heart and soul you gave to professional hockey, all those years, into this book.
Frank1 More than 1 year ago
Kerry Fraser provides readers with an inside look at Hockey. Readers are given a rare look at the human side of being an NHL Official. In this book, Kerry opened his heart for all to see. Readers will experience the emotions and presures that he experienced. This is one book that you will not be able to put down. If you always wanted to know what it feels like to be an NHL Referee, this is the book. If you always wanted what is said on the ice, this is the book. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys hockey. This may be Kerry Fraser's "The Final Call", but I hope it is not his final book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ice_Ref_413 More than 1 year ago
I found it very interesting that this was not just another retired sports figure that wanted to "blow their own horn". Kerry Fraser takes you into the action from the other side of the game...that of the official. His love of the game is secondary to his love of God and his family, which he shows us many times. It is interesting how Fraser takes us on a trip down memory lane to some of the greatest hockey venues in the NHL, while allowing us to get understand a side of the sport that many have never seen. His memories of the past are packaged into his final games at each of the cities, giving us a better understanding of what the officials see and go through in their lonley profession. The one memory that was most moving was his vivid description of his meeting with his boss, John McCauley, where he was made aware of what he needed to do to be the best official in the NHL. Fraser learned a lesson that many officials, in all sports, need to learn...and that is that the officials are not bigger than the game. The results of his change resulted in his being one of the most respected officials in the NHL by the players, coaches and management, as well as some of its biggest stars. His way of being able to gain the respect of the players is something that is a lost art in sports today. His confrontations with Gretzky, Lemieux and others that turned into life lessons for the players, as well as Fraser, keep the reader wanting for more. In addition to all of this, Fraser shows the fun side of officiating with his stories about the players and other favorite is the one with the Montreal Canadians in his first year in the NHL. "The Final Call" should be required reading for anyone who wants to be an official, before they do their first game. If you are currently an official, then read it before your next game. I am very confident that it will help you be a better official as well as a better person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This honest look at hockey from the other side of the plexiglass is an extremely honest and insightful read. Fraser does an impressive job of bringing games long past back to life and setting the reader in the thick of the action. He's also quick to admit to mistakes, misgivings, and his very human fallibility, which I deeply appreciate as a reader. This is the story of an ending, the closing of a 30 year career, and a man's struggle to find a new beginning - a new definition of himself. Anyone who's ever completed a long life journey will be able to relate to Fraser's tale. An added plus? The Final Call is also hilarious in many parts.