Weekly Question: For Brian

A tribute to the best of us.

By now, most of you know the story of Brian Fraser. A producer for CFRA Ottawa, and an unabashed lover of sport, the 26-year-old faced down two separate bouts of leukemia with the heart of a lion. He not only refused to let his illness define him, but he also went out of his way to advocate for organizations like Canada’s Lifeline, and Hockey Gives Blood, in order to help others going through similar circumstances as him.

You may remember that we ran a piece about Brian back in December; on how his love of sports was carrying him through his fight, and how his favourite teams — like the Ottawa Senators and New Orleans Saints — took it upon themselves to reciprocate his support.

Sadly, following the Senators’ 6-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, Brian’s father, Rick, announced that our local sports superfan had passed away, saying “We know he is at peace and looking for ways to watch down on us”.

The loss is immeasurable. Brian was everything good about people, demonstrated consistently by his courage, and dedication to being a positive force for the people around him. Everyone who knew him personally, or had the pleasure of interacting with him in an online setting, came away better for it, and were touched by a truly genuine person.

We at Silver Seven would again like to express our sincerest condolences to Rick, Brian’s brother Tait, mother Sheila, and all of his loved ones during this unimaginable time.

But ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that Brian wouldn’t want us to be sombre in his absence. He would want us to hang on to the good memories that we have, and allow them to carry us through, one day at a time.

I’ve never had the privilege of speaking to a bigger fan of all things sports than Brian Fraser. From hockey, to football, to baseball. From great broadcaster calls, to dramatic comebacks, to championship wins, chatting with Brian on a Zoom call from his hospital room reminded me what it truly means to be a fan. To devote so much of yourself to something, and to never waver, come what may.

The truth is that being a sports fan is difficult 99% of the time. No matter what the game is, there can be only one winner upon a season’s conclusion, and simple probability dictates that it likely won’t be your team spraying champagne in jubilation. So why, then, do we continue to stand firm in our fandom?

It’s a question that those in Ottawa are all too familiar with. With heart-breaking losses and historic teardowns fresh in their collective memory, it’s understandable as to how one could fade into cynicism, or apathy. Brian reminded me that while championships are the end goal, and wonderful when they happen, it’s the little moments in between that make being a sports fan such a wonderful experience.

Moments like celebrating with his friends after J.G. Pageau’s four-goal performance against the New York Rangers in the 2017 playoffs. Like Milan Michalek scoring on a shorthanded breakaway against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 postseason; the great call from Jim Hughson, and the thundering roar of the crowd that it spawned.

In life, it’s the little things that carry us through our hardest days. The fleeting moments that make us feel alive are the things that light up our world when things grow dark. In one of the most challenging times of our lives, Brian reminded us that we would always have those moments to hold on to, and that more were on the horizon.

Brian never got to see the Ottawa Senators win the Stanley Cup, but his life and career blessed him with memories that he wouldn’t have traded for the world. The way he laughed when telling me about the time Erik Karlsson accidentally flattened him in the tunnel at the Canadian Tire Centre, or how he almost tackled his friend Lorne Geller after a Pageau overtime winner would resonate with anyone, on a deep level. Championships are few and far between, but it’s the moments interspersed throughout the seasons — both fun and trying — that make these crazy fandoms worth it.

For me, I go back to when I was a kid, watching Ottawa Senators games on A-Channel with my mom, dad, and younger brother. It’s going to games, and getting to meet my favourite players. It’s connecting with fans on social media, and having the distinct honour of writing content and producing podcasts for all of you, and how humbled I feel knowing that deep down, I’m still that same kid who just loves sports.

Brian told me that he was “such a kid, at heart”, and I think that’s one of the reasons he was so much fun to talk to, and why his love of sports was so infectious. Brian loved sports, and the people he connected with through them. In my short time knowing him, Brian rekindled my passion for sports, and for life. I’ll always be thankful for that.

So, in honour of Brian Fraser — a lover of sports unlike anyone I’ve ever met — what are those moments for you? Maybe you’ve never seen one of your favourite teams win a championship, but what are the moments, big or small, that remind you why you put up with the losing, and the heartbreak? Whether they’re connected to family or friends, or just a time where you had fun, what reminds you that this is all worth it?

We love you, Brian. You will be dearly missed.

In honour of Brian, please consider donating blood. It could help save the life of someone like Brian, and we know that he would appreciate it more than anything.

Alternatively, you can donate financially to Canada’s Lifeline, or to Hockey Gives Blood. Both were organizations that meant a lot to Brian, and work tirelessly to help others, just like he did.

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