While every offseason is marked by big signings during offseason, the Boston Bruins kicked things off with a big trade on July 4th. The day before free agency opened, the Bruins and the Dallas Stars swapped a total of 7 players that everyone talking. Boston gained forwards Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, and Matt Fraser as well as defenseman Joe Morrow. In term, they sent forwards Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverly as well as defenseman, Ryan Button, to Dallas. It was a huge move and Bruins fans have some new faces to get to know.
One of those names is Matt Fraser. The 6’2 Red Deer, Alberta native went undrafted before signing with the Dallas Stars in 2010. He has spent the past two seasons playing primarily with the Texas Stars in the AHL. Before he made the transition to professional hockey, he played in the Western Hockey League. He feels like it was a perfect league to prepare him going forward.
“I think the Western League is such a good hybrid of being physical and skilled players. It’s a great league,” Fraser said. “There’s a lot of talent coming out of it. You see with the draft, there’s more and more players coming out of that league and it’s exciting.”
When he was first starting his junior career, Fraser played a few games with his hometown team, the Red Deer Rebels. After the first few games of the 2007-2008 season, he found himself with the Kootenay Ice. That would be his team for the next four years of his career. It was able to finish it off in one of the best ways possible.
“My 20 year old year, we won the league and went to the Memorial Cup. I spent four years in Kootenay and to finish off my Western League career with a championship under my belt was great,” Fraser said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better finish other than winning the Memorial Cup. It was exciting for me and for my team.”
While in the AHL, he has been one of the team’s stop scorers. During both of his professional seasons, Fraser has been invited to the AHL All-Star game and he got to attend the most recent one with another teammate.
“It was exciting. I was fortunate enough to go [to the All-Star Game] my first season as well. It was good but being the only guy from Texas, but you don’t really know anyone,” Fraser said. “So, it was good to go with Jamie Oleksiak this year and have someone to hang around with. The experience was real positive and I was honored to go.”
It was during the 2011-2012 season that Fraser got his first NHL call-up. He only made it into one game that season. Then, during the 2012-2013 season, he got more of a chance. Over the course of a few different call-ups, he got into 12 games and registered that elusive first goal when he beat Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. That is something that no player ever forgets.
“Nothing can really prepare you for that. As much as you play in the AHL, the NHL is a different animal,” Fraser said. “You want to play as many games as long as you can. The 12 games I spent in Dallas is invaluable.”
“That was pretty surreal. That’s something I wish every kid growing up could experience,” Fraser said on his first NHL goal. “That one moment made it feel like everything paid off. You get that one goal and you get more confidence.”
Fraser has spent two full seasons playing hockey in Texas, which is not your traditional hockey market. Despite Texas being a football-first state in terms of sports, the Texas Stars of the AHL have gotten excellent fan support. You can even get used to the weather.
“In Cedar Park, it’s really good. We have really good fans and lots of support. When you think of Texas, you think of the Cowboys and there’s a lot of football. For the most part, we get really good fan support,” Fraser said. “The hardest part is probably the weather. You’re not used to that kind of heat and going to the rink in shorts and a t-shirt. But once you get to the rink, it’s all the same.”
For AHL teams in the Northeast, travel is not really an issue. Most of the trips for those teams are simple bus trips because other teams are so close. In Texas the travel is much more extensive. If Fraser finds himself in Providence in the AHL, he won’t have to worry about long trips anymore. But, he has not minded during his time in Texas.
“It’s a bit of a grind. But I grew up and played in the Western Hockey League so it’s not different. It’s actually probably better than that,” said Fraser. “It’s lots of long bus trips and long flights. When it comes down to it, though, it’s not that bad. You get to play hockey for a living and I feel fortunate.”
Being from Canada, Fraser got started playing hockey early and has never looked back. Although he was not always sure that he would get the chance to play professionally, it was something he worked towards. He also knew that if he got a chance, it might be his only one and he could not waste it.
“I was 5 years old when I started and honestly, I just loved playing. We had an outdoor rink by my house and just took off from there,” said Fraser. “I remember telling myself that you only get one chance to play in the NHL and I would do whatever I could to make it there. I knew I gave it everything I had.”
Every hockey player can tell you about the coaches that helped them growing up. There are a lot of people throughout a player’s career that shape the style of play and the approach to the game. But, for Matt Fraser, he will never be able to thank his parents and his sister enough for everything they have done for him.
“I can say that without a blink of the eye that my parents and my sister have been the biggest influence. My sister has given up a lot of personal time to be at different things for me. I’m forever in debt for that. Even my parents have given up trips to go see her or to come see me play,” Fraser said. “People reading this might not understand what that means to a player to have them at my games. I know that my sister has my back and supports me. Obviously my parents have given up a lot of time and money to support me and be there. I owe a lot to the three of them.”
Shortly after Matt Fraser signed a new one-year deal with the Dallas Stars to rejoin the organization for the 2013-2014 season, he found out he would have a new home. He would be moving to an entirely different hockey market to play for the Bruins organization.
“It was definitely a little bit of a shock but it’s exciting. Boston has a winning tradition and culture in that organization. I’m looking forward to it,” Fraser said. “When you think of Boston you think of how much success they’ve had as a team and as a city as well with their other sports teams. It’ll be really exciting to hopefully play in Boston and contribute.”
This trade is not going to change the way Fraser is approaching his offseason training, though. He is going to continue to work hard and prepare for the coming season. He is not yet sure where he will fit in, but is looking forward to any opportunity.
“As of right now I’m just trying to stay focused on working out,” Fraser said. “It’s just another rink and another dressing room so as soon as I can get comfortable I can get to start playing my game.”
Hockey is a small world and a tight-knit community. Normally, going into a new organization is made easier by a familiar face. A player will know someone from somewhere earlier in their career or training in the offseason or playing a team a lot. For Fraser, this organization is brand new aside from his teammates that got traded along with him.
“It’s pretty brand new which is pretty rare these days. Usually you know someone somewhere but it’ll be nice that Joe Morrow and Reilly Smith will be there,” Fraser said. “It’ll be nice to have those familiar faces to make me more comfortable.”
Come September, Fraser will join his new teammates in Boston for training camp where he will hope to earn a spot on the NHL roster. He is a young player that will have a chance to further develop his skills. He is definitely a name for all Bruins fans to watch out for.