As part of a new series this season, we’ll be taking a look at heroes and what NHL players define as heroes. From comic book characters to the people that inspired them while they were growing up to modern day heroes, players give us an inside look at what inspired them along the way.
New Jersey Devils defenseman Mark Fraser starts off the series.
Q1: Growing up, who was your hero and why?
Fraser: I had a couple. One, I often refer to would be Jackie Robinson. At a pretty young age, I took a keen interest in him for obvious reasons. I think…the integrity and courage that he had in a time that I am grateful I never had to live through. For being a minority in his day, and really somewhat of a trailblazer, especially in the world of sports, it was so easy to just get to know that story.
What did you think of the movie “42”?
Fraser: I thought it was actually quite good. I wouldn’t be able to name some of the managers, but Harrison Ford’s character, and some of the managers, I found it really interesting [that] some of the characters took a chance and were stubborn enough to say ‘I don’t care.’ It’s who could play the best ball.
At the end of the movie, while the Dodgers were in Cincinnati, Pee Wee Reese puts his arm around Robinson’s shoulder in response to the crowd’s negative response to Robinson playing in the game.
Fraser: That’s another true testament. Whenever something like that happens, it’s not just the one individual. It takes a group of individuals that share somewhat of the same dream to make it happen. That was kind of the interesting part for me. A lot of what I had known from a young age, even doing book reports on him, [reading] autobiographies, it was his story, but the movie went on to illustrate through everyone that sort of contributed to him to get to where he did.
Q2: Who was your favorite comic book hero?
Fraser: I would say Wolverine from X-Men. I’m not sure why. I just got into him at a young age and always loved him.
Q3: What is your favorite hero/action movie?
Fraser: I like a lot of those Marvel and DC movies. I’m going to have to go with the “Batman: The Dark Knight,” the one with Joker, Heath Ledger as Joker. Just because I think that movie was phenomenal. Batman would not be my first choice of heroes, but I think that movie was phenomenal. Heath Ledger’s performance was very memorable.
Q4: Marvel or DC movies?
Fraser: This is where it gets confusing for me. Overall, I have to say Marvel. But my #1 would have to be DC.
Q5: Today, who do you consider your inspiration?
Fraser: I would say a couple of my grandparents, more than anything. The long winded answer is all four. My grandfather on my dad’s side passed [away] and my grandmother is still alive. They came here from Jamaica with a dream. I’m sure they didn’t imagine this would be the dream that only two generations away, they could have a grandson doing what he loves to be doing on such a large scale. I’m very fortunate for them being the trailblazers they were. My grandfather came to the country, worked hard to become a lawyer and provided his whole life for his family. He had to kind of become established before my dad and his brother were even able to join them for a few years.
On my mom’s side, both grandparents as well, I think if anyone asks me where my toughness or my pain tolerance, I have to credit my mom’s parents because they’re both hard working, tenacious, just great character and great examples to us (my siblings and cousins). My grandfather fought for the Spitfires in the Second World War, very well decorated, DFC Bar and Ace. He came home from the war to be a physician. He’s a published author, poet. I mean, he’s a back woodsman who clipped his knee with a chainsaw and sutured himself, went back out and finished cutting down the tree.
Now we know where you get it from.*
Fraser: Yeah. My grandmother on the same side dislocated her shoulder at my cousin’s hockey game and wanted to sit through and watch the rest of the game before she found out it was dislocated at the hospital. She’s definitely my number one fan. She’s 93. I guarantee she watched this game.
So those would be my inspiration. I feel like I’m very fortunate to be cut from what I like to call the Flying Cloth, but they’ve all inspired me. A lot of pressures I’ve had to go through are very different from them, like some of the race issues my grandfather had to deal with. Some of the stress and pressures that my other grandfather, being that when I entered the NHL, he was fighting WWII [at that age]. That’s two completely different spectrums. What they survived in their lives to help make me who I am today is a strong reason why I look up to them and still do.
Are both sides Jamaican?
My dad is. My mom’s a mix of Scottish-Irish from Canada.
Q6: What heroic feats have you witnessed in your career?
Fraser: I’m going to compliment an old teammate about his toughness and grittiness, and his desire to do whatever he can for the team. That’s Rod Pelley. When we played here together, I saw him take a Jason Arnott slapshot to the face. He went to get it X-rayed. I think he had a dozen stitches, and a broken orbital bone. He came back to play in the third period, despite us being down three or four goals. We didn’t end up winning the game for him, but that in itself, was a pretty heroic move to show his willingness and desire to win for his teammates.
Q7: Which NHL hockey player do you find to be heroic?
Fraser: I’m a huge fan of Jarome Iginla. I could use plenty of examples of him, like in the ’04 Stanley Cup Finals leading into the lockout. He definitely didn’t do it singlehandedly, but he strongly contributed to that team’s Cinderella run. Again, his tenacity…I think he had a significant fight every round that sort of sparked the team and got them some kind of momentum to get them back on the winning track, not only on the ice, but off the ice, as well.
At the same time, there’s plenty of stories of him seeing fans in restaurants or wherever, without them even knowing, he’d pick up their tab. A true leader and somewhat of an inspiration, he’s actually done some really nice things for me, even as a younger fan, he may not even know about.
Did you meet him after you went into the NHL?
Fraser: I did. After my first game against them, I asked to speak to him afterwards. Even after that, he sent me home with a signed stick. I didn’t even ask for it. He just did it because that’s the kind of guy he is.
Q8: What player on the Devils do you see as being a hero to the team and community? Who inspires you?
Fraser: There’s a lot here. One of the easy answers, at least for this organization and my time here, [is] Patrik Elias. [He’s] been a huge staple to this organization for…a long time. He’s contributed to Stanley Cups. Just the fact that the other day, he reached a thousand points, it almost speaks to itself of what he’d be able to do for the team, for every individual in the organization, but also, the hockey in this area of New Jersey. It’s guys like Patrik Elias that keep things entertaining here.
*NOTE: Fraser stopped a Milan Lucic (Boston Bruins) slapshot with his head back on May 8, 2013 during Game 4 in the Boston Bruins – Toronto Maple Leaf playoff series. It put a dent in his head above his right eye which required surgery. He now has three metal plates where his skull was fractured.