BOTW Reviews – The Final CallPosted: 08/10/2013
“The Final Call – hockey stories from a legend in stripes” by Kerry Fraser (Fenn/McClelland)
Price: ￡12.08 (paperback)/￡10.87 (Kindle)
Since I’ve been around British hockey I’ve been told two things about officials that I generally hold to be true; a good referee is not seen or heard unless needed and fans and referees are not meant to agree. Somehow veteran NHL official Kerry Fraser managed to completely hold with the second whilst baulking at the first.
Fraser frames the book against the backdrop of the 2009/10 season, his last as an active NHL official as he finally decided to call time on a career in black and white stripes after over 3 decades in the role.
Arguably the most respected, certainly the best thought of official amongst the players, the book sees Fraser on his travels as he makes his final stop in some of the most storied rinks in the NHL telling stories his times with the respective franchises or in respective arenas whilst also recounting his final game in the middle with said teams.
Fraser doesn’t stick fast to the format as he also tells the story of how he became an official, a junior hockey player whose abilities weren’t cut out for “the show” and was encouraged to go into officiating as well as how his chosen career has affected him and his family in a chapter he jokingly calls “NHL = No Home Life”.
Despite being arguably the symbol of authority, Fraser isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers in the book. He talks openly about how he feels his involvement with the NHL Officials Union once kept him from officiating in the Stanley Cup Finals series and doesn’t spare words for actions and people he doesn’t like. Fraser however is incredibly respectful of the players and whilst he makes a great deal out of his professionalism as an official, Fraser is first and foremost a hockey fan. He loves great plays and seeing great players in action. This is sometimes lost in the heat of a game but the zebras really do love the sport.
One of the defining moments of Fraser’s career, the “missed call” in game 6 of the 1993 Campbell Conference final between LA and Toronto where Wayne Gretzky high sticked Doug Gilmour in the face and received no penalty, is dealt with head on. Rather than skirting round the issue, Fraser is just honest about the whole issue from his standpoint. His explanation is unlikely to satisfy the hardened Leafs fans who believe he should never be forgiven. Those of a more enlightened disposition will likely find the chapter fascinating.
The book overall is interesting for the hockey fan but it is at times, difficult to read. The format itself of chapters focussing on teams isn’t an issue but Fraser’s chopping and changing between narratives does make each chapter, and the book with it, feel long. The principle is good but I’m not sure that it bares out in practice and maybe a book about his career or a book focussed on his last season would have been better because the two mixed together doesn’t really click for me.
It’s not a book that you could give to your mother, this is a book for hockey fans written for that Canadian mass market hockey audience that Britain just doesn’t have. Some of the finer points will be lost on your friends who just like reading sports biographies. I’d recommend having a read of it but unless you really like the idea of the format, rent rather than buy.