In his own home, Fraser picked up on the value of hard work.
“My dad worked six days a week at a saw mill,” Fraser said. “I guess I come by my work ethic honestly. To this day, my dad works hard. He changed jobs, and now he’s a longshoreman at a dock in Vancouver unloading ships.”
In the home of the Vancouver Canucks, Fraser learned what happens when his father’s kind of dedication is applied to hockey.
“Trevor Linden was my favorite player,” Fraser said of the well-respected, longtime Vancouver captain. Linden played 19 NHL seasons, scoring 375 goals and picking up 492 assists. There was always more to Linden than the numbers, and when Fraser talks about his role model, he could be talking about himself.
“He played hard, worked hard, was a good leader, and was good in the community,” said Fraser, who went head-to-head with his hero during the 2007-08 season. Linden was putting the finishing touches on his career in Vancouver while Fraser was getting started with Chicago.
“It was a thrill that I was able to play against him,” Fraser said. “It was my first year and his last season. I got called up, got to play against him, and it’s something I will never forget.”
Linden probably thought he was looking in a mirror. Fraser mixes his idol’s relentless approach to hockey with his father’s blue-collar style. After obtaining Fraser from Edmonton as part of the Ryan Smyth deal last summer, the Kings are now the beneficiaries of that chemistry.
At the time of the deal, Kings President/General Manger Dean Lombardi called him “hard-nosed.”
“I pride myself on that,” the 27-year-old Fraser said of the old-school label. “Even when I first started playing as a little guy, I was not the most skilled player on the ice, so I always knew I had to be tenacious.”
Fraser is not the biggest player on the ice, either. He’s listed at 6-1, 191 pounds, but plays bigger. In his first season with the Kings, Fraser has anchored the team’s fourth line, adding grit, hustle and depth.
For Fraser, the waiting was the hardest part about becoming a King. He sustained a fractured foot while blocking a shot for Edmonton last season and was sidelined for eight months. The uncertainty surrounding Fraser’s health at the time of the Smyth deal led to a dispute between the two teams, but Edmonton ultimately agreed to pay part of Fraser’s medical bills. After extensive rehab, Fraser returned to the ice Nov. 10 vs. Vancouver.
“At first I didn’t know if I was going to be here because of the injury,” Fraser said. “The Kings fixed my foot and gave me an opportunity to play. I have really enjoyed my time in LA and I owe the Kings a lot.”
Fraser has helped the Kings establish themselves as one of the league’s top defensive teams.
“We have not been scoring a lot,” Fraser said. “If you don’t score, you better keep the puck out of your own net. We have been playing tight games with a defense-first mentality.”
The Kings penchant for playing low-scoring games has been a grind, but Fraser believes it could also prove to be a good playoff primer. When the postseason begins, goals are hard to come by, and teams that know how to play close-checking hockey tend to have an edge.
“If you play a lot of tight-checking games during the regular season – and learn how to win them – you will know what to do when the playoffs start,” Fraser said.
Fraser and his teammates realize that in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, most every contest is the equivalent of a playoff game as the season’s second-half winds down.
“The Western Conference is so tight that you can’t afford to fall behind,” Fraser said. “If you lose two or three games in a row, you know someone is going to be winning two or three in a row, so you have to win just to keep pace.”
When the Kings got Fraser, they got someone who knows how to keep pace. In 2009-10, Fraser was a member of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championship team, appearing in three postseason games after playing in 70 games during the regular season. The memory still drives Fraser.
“The Stanley Cup is why you play the game,” Fraser said. “It was a great honor to win the Cup and it’s something I will never forget. It left me thirsty for more.”
After seeing what went into the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championship team, Fraser believes this year’s Kings have a lot of the elements necessary to win big.
“When I heard about the trade to the Kings,” Fraser said, “I looked at the roster and I was super-excited. We have a team that can be at the top at the end of the year.”
Fraser was also a member of Team Canada’s World Junior Championship team back in 2004-05.
“It was a huge thrill,” Fraser said. “World Juniors is enormous in Canada. It was during the lockout season, so the team was stacked.” Fraser’s teammates included current teammates Mike Richards
and Jeff Carter
, as well as Dion Phaneuf, Brent Seabrook, Shea Weber, Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry.
“The tournament was in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which is just south of Winnipeg, so a lot of fans came down from Canada and it was almost like a home game,” said Fraser.
Today, Fraser plays his home games in Los Angeles, where the crowd support has impressed - but not surprised - him.
“Even when I was coming here as a member of the visiting team,” Fraser said, “I always thought the fans were really loud. We recently had our season ticket holder party and it was amazing to see all the fans that came out for it.”
Losing six-of-seven games in late November and early December cost head coach Terry Murray his job and sent the Kings spiraling out of the playoff scene. After Darryl Sutter was hired to replace Murray behind the bench, the Kings stormed back into contention for a Western Conference playoff spot. Fraser remembers that the 2009-10 Blackhawk team that eventually won the Cup went through a rough patch in which they lost 8-of-11 games in March, before coming together to win 6-of-7 games going into the playoffs.
“Every team goes through tough times at some point in the season and you learn from it,” Fraser said. “You learn how to get through adversity.”