When CFRA Ottawa’s Brian Fraser announced publicly that his cancer had returned, he did so without beating around the bush.
“There’s no point in sugarcoating things,” said the 26 year-old, on a Zoom call from his darkened hospital room.
December 8th was the day that Fraser revealed, via Twitter, that his leukemia had returned, following a remission diagnosis back in April. Without going into too much detail, he described it as being dealt “the worst hand possible.”
“It’s been a roller coaster, as these things are,” he explained, “There’s been a lot of pain, there’s been a lot of frustration, a lot of anxiety, but so far, I think we’re doing about as well as we can.”
That’s a credit, Fraser says, to the staff at the Ottawa Hospital.
“I can’t begin to tell you how awesome the doctors are here. I’m in really excellent hands.”
A self-described “huge” sports fan, Fraser has found a bit of escapism in focusing on his favourite teams. His beloved New Orleans Saints are currently on track to win the NFC South division, with the promise of a deep playoff run ahead.
Were that not enough, the Saints showed Fraser some love of their own.
'Keep fighting, keep the faith': NFL quarterback Drew Brees sends well-wishes to CFRA's Brian Fraser— Graham Richardson (@grahamctv) December 11, 2020
The New Orleans Saints quarterback sent a video message to CFRA producer and Saints fan Brian Fraser. https://t.co/JzvAhFLDM3
Football is not the only sport that Fraser has found himself leaning on, however. A lifelong fan of the Ottawa Senators, he has relished the excitement of rooting for a team on the rise. Today marks 281 days since the Sens last took to the ice for an NHL regular season game, and that fact is not lost on Fraser.
“Before I came back into the hospital, I had gone looking for old games to watch. I felt myself missing the little things, that rush of; ‘who is gonna make the team’? When is Artyem Zub going to get a chance in this lineup? Stuff like that,” Fraser said.
“You don’t know how much something means to you until it’s taken away.”
It’s a sentiment echoed throughout much of the Senators fanbase, as the team’s long absence seems poised to finally end. With gorgeous new jerseys, shiny new prospects like Tim Stuetzle, and key additions in Matt Murray and Evgeny Dadonov, the hunger for Sens hockey’s return has grown to ravenous proportions.
As much excitement as there is about the future, Fraser finds himself reminiscing on the great moments from the past, as well.
“I’m a big fan of great broadcast moments,” he smiled, ”One of my favourite Sens calls ever was Milan Michalek’s goal against Pittsburgh in the 2013 playoffs,”
“It was a game that did not go well,” Fraser said with a laugh.
Of course it didn’t: the Senators lost 7-3 In what ended up being Alfredsson’s last home game with the team, yet another in a long line of heartbreaks for a fanbase that has suffered more than its fair share.
But between those moments of pain lie the greatest moments in franchise history. Moments, for Fraser, like Dion Phaneuf’s overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in 2017, or J.G. Pageau’s four-goal performance that had him so excited that he nearly tackled his friend, Lorne, at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Or, when Erik Karlsson steamrolled him in the hallway while trying to run out to practice.
“I think people are still suffering from Sens fatigue, but look at those moments, though. Because those moments weren’t that long ago, and new ones aren’t that far away.”
Fraser freely admits that his love of sports, and the Senators in particular, are carrying him through the fight of his life. It’s easy for him to get lost in his love affair with the team, and community as a whole, in order to take his mind off of his circumstances, even for a second.
“It’s coming around the corner,” he said, “And we have great jerseys and I’m really excited ...I just get so fired up to talk about the Sens.”
In talking with him, it becomes crystal clear that Brian loves the Ottawa Senators. Through thick and thin, he’s stood by them, and it’s a display of love that has been reciprocated in kind.
“I haven’t really been very public about it, but the Sens have been really, really awesome about reaching out.”
During the team’s Sens Say Thanks event during this past summer, Fraser received a signed Thomas Chabot jersey. It was a gesture that went a long way with him, but what has happened in the wake of his setback has meant even more to him.
“The guys from North Dakota have been really awesome”, he said, “Christian Wolanin was one of the first guys to reach out to me, and I’ve been in touch with various people in and around the North Dakota area that are connected with him.”
“They’ve just been offering their support, asking how they can help.”
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but the well-wishes haven’t been solely emanating from NoDak. Senators legend Chris Neil called to offer his support just yesterday.
But the new core of the Ottawa Senators; the one with hopes of delivering the future glory that Fraser is looking forward to, have made it clear that they have his back, as well.
“I got a tweet from Thomas Chabot again recently, and Brady Tkachuk sent me a DM the other day, saying ‘Hey man, we’re here for you, you’ve got this’.”
Though Fraser took care to explicate his desire not to come off as bragging, he acknowledges that it’s a special feeling to have some of his favourite players in his corner.
“I’m still such a kid at heart,” Fraser chuckled. “It means a lot.”
Though the fight he’s facing is unimaginable, Brian Fraser is walking into it with all of Ottawa, and beyond in his corner. Those who know him have no doubt that he’ll beat leukemia again, and you only need to look at the replies that he gets on Twitter if you need further proof.
The teams, and players that he loves being among those who have his back is just icing on the cake.
“When the team that you love so much loves you back, it’s crazy,” he said.
“I’ve been loved back a lot by the Sens in the past 18 months or so”.
This holiday season, please consider donating what you can spare to Hockey Gives Blood. Partnered with Canadian Blood Services, they use the influence of hockey to spread awareness about the importance of blood donation.
You can find them on Twitter: @hkygivesblood