March 10, 2023
When the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) Showcase game between Team Scotiabank and Team Sonnet was set to get underway in Kitchener’s Auditorium on a Saturday night in mid-February as part of the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) efforts to help showcase the PWHPA's Secret® Dream Gap Tour and some of the best women’s hockey players in the world, there was one family of fans - the Fraser family - who were determined to be front and centre for all the action.
You see, for them, hockey had become more than just a game. It had become their life force that would give them all the strength and courage to carry on after tragedy had struck this hockey-loving family.
In September of 2022, family patriarch Mark Fraser had just finished playing pick up hockey with his friends when he suddenly and unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest. Tragically, he did not survive, and, at the young age of 45 years old, left behind his wife Lisa and their three young children - Holly (11), Lila (9) and Jack (8) - to bear the burden of going on with life without him in their lives.
For Mark, his world revolved around his family and much of his family time centred on his role as a passionate hockey dad who wanted to pass on his passion for the game. Mark loved hockey and he was focused on helping his children experience the best the game had to offer.
"he had such a way with making every kid feel seen, heard, appreciated, and capable"
It meant putting each of his kids in ice skates by the time they had reached the age of two. It also meant spending every weekend volunteering his time at learn to skate programs, teaching hockey basics and, later, coaching all three of his children. As his wife Lisa shared, he had such a way with making every kid feel seen, heard, appreciated, and capable.
For Lisa, the world of hockey had for the most part been unknown and unfamiliar territory. While her role was to support, pack bags and snacks, it was Mark who gifted each of their children with the confidence to go out and play. Mark also firmly believed in the “team” mentality and the power the game could have on those who played both on and off the ice.
Fast forward to Saturday February 11th, 2023, an evening that featured the opportunity to watch live PWHPA hockey action right in the Fraser family’s backyard. It would be bittersweet to know that their beloved husband and father would not be able to be there with them to watch all the action together a family.
Since its inception in 2019, watching PWHPA hockey had made for extra special bonding time between Mark and his oldest daughter Holly. Partially because she was first born, but partially because it provided such an extraordinary opportunity to share their mutual love for the game of hockey.
Mark’s excitement and support for the PWHPA also meant he had have PWHPA merchandise for both him and Holly. He ordered a t-shirt for Holly and a ball cap for both to share. Mark ended up claiming the hat for himself and wore it so much, he actually wore it out.
Mark also promised Holly he would take her to a Dream Gap Tour game one day. Sadly, Mark would not be able to keep that promise.
When the Fraser family headed to Kitchener's Auditorium to watch the featured PWHPA game that Saturday night in mid-February, Holly would wear her dad’s well worn PWHPA hat as well as her PWHPA t-shirt under her Hayley Wickenheiser Team Canada hockey jersey. An emotional night for her for certain but also for her sister, brother and mother.
The 2022- 2023 hockey season is slowing coming to an end for the Fraser family. For so many years, any given hockey season meant sitting in cold arenas, being a spectator and cheering on the kids as they played their best.
"Hockey has saved our hearts. The kids go out and play their hearts out for Daddy and for themselves. Mark would be so proud of all that they are doing."
But this year's hockey season is just so different. Through some of their darkest days, hockey and the busyness their hockey schedules bring has been the one thing that has propelled the family forward in their healing journey.
Spending time at the rink means getting everyone out of the house, getting the kids some exercise, and connecting Lisa with other hockey parents. In Lisa’s words, “hockey has saved our hearts. The kids go out and play their hearts out for Daddy and for themselves. Mark would be so proud of all that they are doing".
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Blog by Caroline Wiley. Caroline bridged her 20+ years of professional experience in the sport and recreation industry together with her passions for photography and supporting women in sport to create SeeWhatSheCanDo. Her vision is to create a welcoming space where active women find a sense of belonging within their own local community, see themselves in authentic and awe-inspiring ways and find resources to help them be their best active selves.
Photos provided by FSFotos and Lisa Fraser where indicated.
SeeWhatSheCanDo would like to sincerely thank Lisa Fraser for sharing her family's personal story of loss and tragedy. We thank you for your generosity in sharing it and allowing us to share it with others. SWSCD would also like to thank Michelle Graham of FSFotos for being the driving force behind telling the Fraser family hockey story.
At the time of Mark's death, Mark was coaching his children through the Kitchener Minor Hockey Association. Mark also spent many years volunteering for the Galt Minor Hockey School on Saturday mornings in their Learn to Skate and Hockey Basics programs.
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