Fraser still a whistle-blower

Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser is worried that the league's current crop of young and...

Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser is worried that the league's current crop of young and inexperienced officials are being inconsistent with their calls on the ice. (STEVENS LeBLANC/QMI Agency file photo)

CATHY DOBSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:13 AM ET

SARNIA, ONT. - As the NHL playoffs kick off this week, Kerry Fraser says he’s concerned about inconsistency in today’s refereeing.

“Right now, the game is very fast and it’s hard for young officials without the experience to keep up with the pace,” said Fraser, who retired a year ago as the most senior referee in the National Hockey League.

During the playoffs last year, too many refs were inconsistent when it came to major infractions, said Fraser, who officiated for 30 years. And the supplementary discipline doled out by the league hasn’t helped.

“There were head shots when players were sometimes suspended and sometimes not.

“The referees became confused seeing what was happening upstairs with suspensions or lack of, and it created inconsistent officiating,” Fraser said.

This season, Brendan Shanahan became the NHL’s head disciplinarian and set a new standard of supplementary discipline, but the officials have not been following through on the ice, charged Fraser.

“In the last three weeks of the regular season, there were three situations on the ice where minor penalties were assessed by referees that resulted in two three-game suspensions and one five-game suspension.

“There’s no equity in that,” he said.

During the playoffs, when emotions are running high, referees have to be particularly consistent so players aren’t confused and they understand what will be called.

“Otherwise, they’ll run the risk of committing the foul thinking they’ll probably get away with it, especially in the late stages of the game,” he said.

Fraser, 59, was raised in Sarnia and now lives in New Jersey. He was visiting his hometown Monday and checked in at The Book Keeper to see how sales of his first book are going.

Within three months of retirement last April, he penned “The Final Call, Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes.” He wrote 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week to meet his deadlines.

“Now that’s pressure,” he said with a laugh.

After the release at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto, Fraser’s first book signing was in Sarnia where his mom and other family members still live.

People were lined up out the door and around the corner from The Book Keeper, he recalled.

Fraser’s was the independent book store’s single most successful signing event, confirmed owner Susan Chamberlain.

“We’ve sold 700 hardcover copies of Kerry’s book, which rivals any Harry Potter release,” she said. “I was stunned on the day of the signing. We were sold out in 20 minutes.”

The softcover edition of Final Call is now available and selling well, in part because of a link to The Book Keeper that Fraser has added to his TSN.ca daily blog “C’mon Ref.”

In fact, that blog has inspired Fraser’s second book although he hasn’t started writing it yet.

“It’s about what’s happening in the hockey world on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “I use the same three premises that I used when I was on the ice: I’m straight up, honest to the end; I’m fair; and I’m opinionated. I don’t ride the rail.”

While Fraser said he never shied away from talking one-on-one with NHL fans about his more controversial calls, the book tour and his blog have given him an even bigger stage to talk about the game and defend his decisions.

“I’m establishing friends, even those who are harsh,” he said. “I shake their hands and answer their questions.

“People want to get in on the game. They want to know what it’s like on the other side of the glass.

“I love that I can share what I did for so many years.”

cathy.dobson@sunmedia.ca


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